Funeral homes using high pressure sales tactics amid COVID-19 pandemic, new report finds
TORONTO -- The president of the Ontario Funeral Services Association says he finds high pressure sales tactics being used in some funeral homes “disgusting” especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The thought of pressuring families while they're vulnerable is horrible. It's terrible tactics,” Scott MacCoubrey said.
A report by Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk found that grieving families often face high pressure sales tactics and are given misleading information when they use the services of a funeral home due to a lack of proper protections from the Bereavement Authority of Ontario.
Mystery shoppers were sent into 100 funeral homes during the first wave of the pandemic to conduct research in July.
“There is the use of upselling in funeral homes which I think is terrible," Lysyk said.
Part of the problem is also trying to find out how much things actually cost. Only 26 per cent of funeral homes post their price list online.
“In your time of emotional stress and angst you may feel pressure to spend more money than you need to," Lysyk said.
Prices for services from funeral homes also varied widely across the province. The price for completing death documentation varied from $65 to $495. The price for direct cremation without a funeral service ranged from $997 to $3,920 and the least expensive casket available varied from $475 to almost $1,180.
MacCoubrey said the vast majority of funeral operators are doing their best to help the public during the pandemic. He added that prices for services will vary depending on the operating costs of funeral homes and where they’re located.
But MacCoubrey agrees that pricing should be more transparent.
“It’s our job to help people through this (bereavement) step-by-step and basically everyone I know in the industry does that. Unfortunately, the auditor general’s report found people who don't feel that way and I find that greatly disturbing," MacCoubrey said.
Lysyk said the funeral services industry needs more consumer protection.
“Because at the end of the day we are all going to be involved in at least some decision that deals with the passing of a loved one," Lysyk said.
The auditor is calling on the government to work with the Bereavement Authority of Ontario to increase transparency, as well as deter upselling and unethical practices.