Take steps to check rising funeral costs

A funeral in Singapore today can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $30,000.

As it stands, the cost of arranging a funeral will only get more expensive, not less.

This is a huge financial commitment at a time of immense emotional pain and distress when one's decision-making faculties may be compromised.

A common practice is for various funeral and other related services to be bundled into a package and promoted under a general price.

Such an arrangement simplifies the decision-making process which is appreciated by some families during times of grief.

While there's room for negotiation within the package, there are limitations, and costs could be higher than selecting products and services separately.

It is thus important that funeral directors be obliged to state how many of the items in each bundle are mandatory, and the base cost for these mandatory items.

What are the Association of Funeral Directors Singapore (AFD) and individual funeral directors doing to curb the rising funeral costs in Singapore?

Due to the lack of legislation, guidelines and research into the funeral industry, the least that funeral directors can do is to follow the excellent example set by the healthcare sector and make public:

• A list of historically transacted bill information over the past five years;

• Fee benchmarks for their services, products and procedures;

• An itemised price list for their primary products and services;

• A projection of how costs are expected to develop in the foreseeable five years.

On the governance of funeral costs, there is certainly a role for the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore and the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore to play in the promotion of fair, ethical and transparent business and advertising practices among funeral directors which would enable consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

The AFD must have the will to do more to educate the public and take the lead in instituting the pricing standards and benchmarks required for the funeral industry.

The conversation on funeral costs should also rightfully be part of the national conversation on retirement adequacy in Singapore.

Chen Jiaxi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Take steps to check rising funeral costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe