Following an investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices by Glasnevin Trust, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) secured agreement from Glasnevin Trust to put in place a number of remedial measures.
Glasnevin Trust, also known as the Dublin Cemeteries Committee (DCC), is the largest provider of funeral services in Ireland, operating five cemeteries and two crematoria in Dublin. It also operates Glasnevin Florists Ltd and Glasnevin Cemetery Monument Works Ltd (GCMW) which creates and erects headstones.
In November 2011, the CCPC received a complaint in relation to alleged anti-competitive practices by Glasnevin Trust. It was alleged that Glasnevin Trust, and its subsidiary GCMW, were engaging in anti-competitive practices designed to put competing headstone providers at a competitive disadvantage. It was alleged that this amounted to an abuse of dominance by Glasnevin Trust contrary to section 5 of the Competition Act 2002. After a detailed preliminary assessment, the Commission identified a number of concerns and decided in March 2013 to open a formal investigation. In the first instance, there appeared to be a lack of transparency for consumers in terms of the final cost of burial services. For example, in situations where consumers chose to erect a headstone some months after a burial, as is often the case, they were sometimes surprised to discover that a separate foundation fee was also payable, in addition to the funeral director’s costs and the cost of the burial plot and the headstone.
It was also alleged that Glasnevin Trust was waiving, or reducing, this foundation fee if the consumer opted to purchase the headstone from Glasnevin Trust’s subsidiary company, GCMW, potentially putting other competing headstone providers at a competitive disadvantage. It was further alleged that Glasnevin Trust was discriminating against competing headstone providers in terms of waiting times for foundations, access to cemeteries and promotional activities.
The CCPC secured agreement from Glasnevin Trust to put a number of remedial measures in place in order to mitigate anti-competitive practices and ensure increased transparency. These include:
An agreement that Glasnevin Trust will make its prices more transparent to consumers, making it easier for consumers to find a price list for burial plots and foundation fees on Glasnevin Trust website and in Glasnevin Trust’s offices. Critically, Glasnevin Trust has also agreed to inform consumers explicitly that foundation fees are not included in the purchase price of a burial plot and will also provide flexibility to consumers in terms of when these fees are payable.
Given that many funeral directors often act on behalf of bereaved families, Glasnevin Trust has taken measures to ensure that funeral directors will inform consumers of the separate cost of the foundation fee. For instance, before applying for burial services in Glasnevin Trust cemeteries, funeral directors are required to confirm to Glasnevin Trust that they have informed consumers of the foundation cost.
Glasnevin Trust has also agreed to treat competing headstone providers in an equal and non-discriminatory manner in terms of waiting times for permits and foundations, access to cemeteries and regulatory requirements.
Glasnevin Trust has agreed to allow competing headstone providers to advertise in Glasnevin Trust promotional brochures subject to the payment of the same fees payable by GCMW for such advertising.
Based on these measures, the CCPC is satisfied to conclude its investigation without any further action. The CCPC wishes to acknowledge that Glasnevin Trust co-operated fully and in a timely manner throughout the investigation.