10/01/2022 - 14:46

Bowra & O’Dea fined $26,640 by ACCC

10/01/2022 - 14:46

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Established WA funeral services provider Bowra & O’Dea has been fined by the ACCC for allegedly failing to disclose hidden cremation and burial fees to customers.

Bowra & O’Dea fined $26,640 by ACCC
Bowra & O’Dea has 12 funeral homes in the Perth metropolitan area. Photo: David Henry

Established Western Australian funeral services provider Bowra & O'Dea has been fined by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for allegedly failing to disclose hidden cremation and burial fees to customers.

The business paid $26,640 in penalties after the ACCC issued it with two infringement notices for allegedly advertising prices for two of its funeral and cremation services that did not include unavoidable costs.

In the statement, the ACCC emphasised that the payment of the fine was not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.

It coincides with the consumer watchdog’s call for funeral businesses to review contracts and pricing to ensure consumers were fairly treated when planning a funeral, which it said could be an emotionally vulnerable time for consumers.

Bowra & O'Dea is the fifth funeral services provider subject to action from the ACCC.

In a statement, the ACCC claimed Bowra & O'Dea published prices on its website between at least September 10 2020 to December 14 2021 for funeral and cremation services that allegedly failed to include certain unavoidable costs.

It alleged prices for the ‘Premium Dual Service’ did not include cemetery fees or the cost of a casket or coffin.

In addition, the ACCC claimed the company’s ‘Essential Goodbye Service’ did not include cremation or burial fees or cremation permit fees.

ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said these types of issues appeared to be widespread in the industry.

“We were concerned that Bowra & O'Dea was advertising prices that may have misled consumers by including only part of the price and failing to include costs that are unavoidable for a funeral, such as the cremation or burial fee,” Mr Keogh said in a statement.

“Funeral businesses need to do better and make sure they give complete and accurate information to their customers.”

The ACCC also flagged concerns regarding Bowra & O'Dea’s contract terms.

The watchdog claimed these terms could allow the business to vary contract prices without seeking the consumer’s consent and with no right for the consumer to terminate the contract and to charge consumers who did not pay invoices on time both an interest rate on the unpaid amount and a late payment fee.

“Funeral businesses should not charge consumers for costs they have not agreed to, or excessive interest or late payment fees.”

Bowra & O'Dea has undertaken to remove these terms from its contracts and to establish and maintain a consumer law compliance program.

Bowra & O'Dea executive chairman Joe O'Dea said the business sincerely valued the ACCC’s scrutiny of the sector.

“We were surprised and dismayed that the ACCC identified two minor commercial issues on our website, for the omission of a whole single price for a funeral service and a contract term related to a late payment fee and interest rates,” Mr O'Dea told Business News.

“We have always provided families with a detailed breakdown of pricing and terms, with a full-service price included in all quotes.

“These were unintentional oversights and we have undertaken immediate action by updating our website and other customer materials.”

The business has also since amended its website to ensure all unavoidable costs are included in any advertised price for its funeral and cremation services.

The company operates 12 funeral homes in and around Perth, providing cremation and funeral services, and sells caskets, urns and coffins.

 

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