Paying for death: the funeral business
It is difficult for us to talk about death, but it is even more difficult to talk about the cost of dying. We want to break the taboo and take a look at the procedure and costs of funeral services, historically criticised for their high prices and lack of transparency.
The Covid-19 pandemic has left us with very unpleasant figures, headed by the 23,000 deaths that have been recorded in Catalonia since the beginning of the pandemic. Added to this number is the desperation of many families when it comes to paying for the funeral to have a dignified farewell for their loved ones, either due to a lack of financial resources, the high costs of the funeral home, or, in some cases, because they cannot afford or do not have burial insurance.
Barcelona creates a protocol of good practice
The first obstacle encountered by many families begins at the medical centre itself: due to lack of information, in many cases, they are unaware of the procedure for contracting funeral services at the hospital for the death of a family member. In response to this need, Barcelona City Council has created a protocol of good practices on funeral services, to which ten of the city’s hospitals have already signed up.
The aim of this protocol is to provide families with information on the steps to follow and to promote freedom of choice as to which funeral company they want to use. For this reason, the medical centres, together with the cemeteries of the city of Barcelona, provide a leaflet with information on prices, rights, funeral homes operators, the procedure to follow in case of having insurance, free services, and subsidised services. The protocol also details how all this information must be provided by medical personnel in a designated area, in order to maintain privacy.
Price of burials limited by the coronavirus
The impact of the pandemic and the situation of helplessness in which many families have found themselves has led the Generalitat to establish that “under no circumstances, the prices of funeral services maybe be higher than those in force prior to 14 March 2020”. This malpractice had already been denounced by some funeral homes customers, who warned of prices that were too high for those who died of coronavirus.
Currently, due to the lack of transparency and information from funeral homes and the aggravation of the coronavirus, it is difficult to establish an average burial price in Catalonia. But to give us an idea, in Barcelona, the limit for funeral services during the pandemic was 1,948.10 euros.
The recurrent lack of transparency
In 2020, the Organització de Consumidors i Usuaris (OCU) carried out a study analysing the websites of 50 funeral homes in different cities in Spain, and concluded that the lack of transparency is constant and recurrent in this sector. Only five funeral homes out of the 50 that were analysed reported and detailed their prices; others showed the price of certain services or simply the total cost, and the remaining 37 did not report prices at all.
In addition to this lack of transparency, there is a lack of freedom to choose funeral homes, especially for people with burial insurance, who can only choose from the options indicated by the insurer. In Spain, practically half of the deceased population in 2020 had insurance (46.6%) and, therefore, their choice was limited. The association of small funeral homes Esfune alerted the National Commission for Markets and Competition this year to this lack of freedom of choice, which according to its study affects 70% of families, with or without insurance.
Nothing spares us from death. That is why it is so important that the funeral sector offers facilities and guarantees to families and is committed to transparency. Because the duty of funeral homes is to provide a good death.
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