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Funeral service advert banned for claiming competitors ‘took advantage of vulnerable customers’

An advert for a funeral service was banned after accusing its rivals of ‘”taking advantage of vulnerable customers”, the watchdog ruled.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) told Neo Cremations that a table on its website had to be removed and should not appear again in that form after it upheld a complaint that it denigrated its competitors. 

The table compared the services offered by different companies and included a category which stated: “Large nationwide chain known for taking advantage of vulnerable customers.” 

Next to listings for Co-op Funeralcare and Simplicity, a trading name of Dignity, it had a tick.

Neo Cremations, which offers carbon neutral cremations and is a trading name of Serenity Technologies, linked to a report by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) from 2018 which highlighted the issue of the treatment of vulnerable customers by the industry.

However, the ASA said the report did not explicitly link this problem to the named firms and banned the table from appearing again.

The ruling read: “Notwithstanding any conclusions that readers might draw from the report regarding Co-op Funeralcare and Dignity Plc’s business practices, we considered that claims that they were ‘known for taking advantage of vulnerable customers’ gave the impression that they operated in an unethical manner. 

“We considered that such claims went beyond justified critical comment, and attacked Co-op Funeralcare and Dignity Plc’s business practices.”

The CMA is currently carrying out an investigation into the supply of services by funeral directors and crematoria and is expected to publish its final report by early next year.

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