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CMA set to move from education to enforcement

A shift in approach is coming that will see funeral directors face enforcement rather than education when it comes to complying with the CMA order on price transparency, a spokesman told a packed NAFD Conference in South Wales last month.

“We will look to move away from an educational approach more to enforcement, and focus on any parties in breach of the order,” said Dipesh Shah, CMA Director of Remedies, Business and Financial Analysis.

In response to strong questioning from delegates who wanted to see the CMA clamp down on funeral directors who show no signs of compliance, he said enforcement would take the form of “Issuing public letters, naming and shaming, then we can enforce through the courts. There are powers available to us and we will use these in an effective and proportionate manner. Where we have identified breaches we have written to the funeral directors and told them how to be compliant. Now we move to more formal approaches.”

The session came after some encouragement earlier in the day from NAFD Chief Executive Jon Levett who said that following concerns expressed at the autumn meeting last year follow up work had “greatly improved the level of compliance – now we can focus on the refuseniks”.

He continued: “The next steps are that IFSO will be contacting those members – about 75 – to do concentrated work with them which may then trigger a disciplinary process and may lead to some being removed from membership as part of that.

“My big concern is that if we don’t have a good level of compliance it gives the CMA every excuse to come back and say ‘we knew there was a problem’ and introduce price controls.”

At a later session, IFSO chairman David Heath CBE (pictured) stressed the need for the regulator to be genuinely independent (“so we will need to distance ourselves from NAFD”), credible, and representative of all parts of the sector.

Asked about alignment with SAIF, he was unequivocal: “It’s not a big enough sector to have rival regulatory processes – especially when they are so very similar. Looking at it as an intelligent disinterested person, I think this is the view that would be shared by legislators.

“In the long term, people judging their own members cannot past muster. The only way we will the argument that there doesn’t need to be statutory regulation is if we can bring both together. We were set up to try to transcend those differences.

“The reason we are independent is so that we can embrace everybody and be credible both with the Government and those we need to hear those arguments.”

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