Funeral directors in NSW must comply with an information standard for funeral goods and services.
Who does the information standard apply to?
All NSW funeral directors and any business in NSW that arranges and conducts funerals.
What is the purpose of the information standard?
To ensure funeral directors provide customers with:
- information about their ‘basic funeral’ option if they have one, its cost and what it covers, by giving a ‘basic funeral notice’
- an itemised quote before entering into any funeral arrangement
- an itemised statement of the goods and services provided and their costs before accepting final payment.
What is a basic funeral?
A basic funeral is the lowest cost funeral service package the funeral director is able to provide. Many funeral directors offer a basic funeral, although they may call it, for example, an ‘economy funeral’ or ‘budget funeral’.
A basic funeral consists of a single service, conducted at the funeral director’s premises or the burial or cremation site. It would take place on a weekday between 8am and 5pm. A basic funeral includes only the following:
- arrangement and conduct of the funeral
- transportation of the body to the funeral director’s premises, mortuary and burial or cremation site, where each individual journey is no more than 30km
- storage of the body at a mortuary or holding room
- preparation of the body for burial or cremation (does not include preparation for viewing or embalming)
- the least expensive coffin available
- compulsory medical certificates or permits
- burial or cremation of the body.
What is a basic funeral notice?
Any funeral director who provides basic funerals must give all prospective customers a ‘basic funeral notice’ before entering into any funeral arrangement. This is a written notice itemising each of the basic funeral goods and services and their costs. It also includes the estimated costs of necessary disbursements and the total cost of the funeral.
Funeral directors can print or download an optional basic funeral notice form from the Fair Trading website at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au. Alternatively, they can use the template as a basis to prepare their own basic funeral notice to include their letterhead or company design. However, it must contain all the compulsory items from the information standard.
What do funeral directors need to do?
Any funeral director who provides a ‘basic funeral’ option must inform all prospective customers of this option by giving them a written ‘basic funeral notice’ before entering into any funeral arrangement. This applies regardless of the name funeral directors use for the ‘basic funeral’ (eg. some may call it an ‘economy funeral’).
If a customer wants to arrange a non-basic funeral, the funeral director must give them an itemised written quote, specifying each of the goods and services that will be provided and their costs, including the estimated costs of the necessary disbursements and any other disbursements.
Before accepting the final payment, funeral directors must give the customer a written statement itemising each of the goods and services provided and their costs, including the costs of disbursements. This applies to all funerals: basic and non-basic.
What if the customer does not want a basic funeral?
Funeral directors must still give the customer a basic funeral notice so they know there is that option.
Is it compulsory for all funeral directors to provide a basic funeral option?
The information standard does not make it compulsory for all funeral directors to start providing a basic funeral option if they do not already do so. However, most funeral directors currently offer some type of basic funeral, which provides for a simple, dignified service without the optional extras. If a funeral director does provide a basic funeral option, they will have to inform all customers by giving them the basic funeral notice.
What if the funeral arrangements are made by phone or email?
Where the funeral director and customer will not meet before the funeral arrangements are entered into, funeral directors should email, post or fax the basic funeral notice to the customer.
Can a basic funeral be provided in rural areas?
In many rural areas, the transportation distance of the body to and from the funeral director’s premises may be more than 30km. In this case, the funeral would not be a basic funeral as defined in the information standard. However, funeral directors may still offer the customer a type of basic funeral, with additional charges for the extra mileage, if appropriate.
What is a disbursement?
A disbursement is the cost funeral directors pay for a product or service provided to the customer. Necessary disbursements include:
- the fees charged by a medical practitioner for medical certificates
- permits and fees charged by a cemetery or crematorium.
For example, if a medical practitioner charges $60 for a medical certificate, then the $60 included in the invoice to the customer is a disbursement. Other disbursements may include newspaper notices, flowers, refreshments etc. that the customer requests.
How do funeral directors prove they have given a basic funeral notice to a customer?
It is not compulsory for funeral directors to obtain proof of having given a prospective customer a basic funeral notice. However, they may wish to ask the customer to sign a slip saying they have received the notice. The optional basic funeral notice template includes a slip for customers to sign.
Fair Trading will be conducting compliance activities to check that funeral directors are giving out basic funeral notices to customers.
If funeral directors fail to comply with the information standard requirements they may have to pay a fine of $550. In serious cases, they may be prosecuted under the Fair Trading Act 1987. The maximum penalty if they are convicted under the Act is $22,000 for an individual or $110,000 for a corporation.
If you have questions about the funeral information standard call Fair Trading on 13 32 20.