Sharks prey­ing on death

Scottish Daily Mail - - Money Mail - By Vic­to­ria Bischoff MONEY MAIL EDI­TOR [email protected]­ly­mail.co.uk

GAZELLES to be hunted — that’s how sales staff at one call cen­tre de­scribed the el­derly cus­tomers they were tar­get­ing with ex­pen­sive fu­neral plans.

‘You need to have claws out,’ a man­ager wrote in a text mes­sage to staff be­fore the start of a shift. ‘Gazelle will never say: “Just eat me.” We have to hunt.’ The mes­sage ends with a row of lion emo­jis.

Whistle­blow­ers told the Guardian that staff work­ing for Pros­per­ous Life, which sells hun­dreds of pre­paid fu­neral plans each month, were also sent video clips from the film The Wolf Of Wall Street, which showed char­ac­ters beat­ing their chests to fire them­selves up be­fore start­ing work.

And when em­ploy­ees at the call cen­tre closed a deal, fake notes of cash would rain down on them.

Given this shame­ful be­hav­iour, is it any won­der cus­tomers feel bul­lied into sign­ing up for fu­neral plans they can’t af­ford?

The idea of a pre-paid plan is that you lock in a price to pro­tect your fam­ily against soar­ing prices.

The av­er­age cost of a ba­sic fu­neral is al­ready £3,785 — and ris­ing.

But, as Money Mail has ex­posed time and again, there are ma­jor con­cerns that the el­derly and vul­ner­a­ble are be­ing mis­led by sales staff des­per­ate to hit tar­gets.

In April 2018, an un­der­cover in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed how cus­tomers were rou­tinely baf­fled by ex­ag­ger­ated and false claims that con­cealed the true costs they could face. Some staff failed to ex­plain that fu­neral plans do not al­ways cover the full bill. Plans can also come with big can­cel­la­tion charges, or re­stric­tions on when you can have a ser­vice.

Sup­pos­edly in­de­pen­dent com­par­i­son sites only of­fer ac­cess to a small num­ber of deals.

Typ­i­cally, th­ese sites ask cus­tomers to en­ter their tele­phone num­bers for a call back. Their de­tails are then passed on to sales ad­vis­ers who pro­mote the plan that pays the most com­mis­sion.

And if cus­tomers say no, they face be­ing ha­rassed with dozens of calls un­til they give in.

In June, the Trea­sury pledged to reg­u­late the fu­neral plan mar­ket and said providers would fi­nally be over­seen by the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Author­ity.

But un­til the new rules come — which may not be for years — the el­derly and vul­ner­a­ble re­main un­pro­tected. And with a crack­down on the hori­zon, un­scrupu­lous firms are only likely to be­come more ag­gres­sive in a bid to cash in while they can. Some­thing needs to be done

now to help pro­tect those who are sim­ply try­ing to shield their fam­i­lies from more grief when they will be at their most vul­ner­a­ble.

If you have been tar­geted by a firm push­ing fu­neral plans, we want to hear from you. Write to me at Money Mail, North­cliffe House, 2 Derry Street, Lon­don, W8 5TT — or via my email below.

Ring the changes

TALK­ING of let­ting peo­ple down when they most need help, it is un­for­giv­able that griev­ing fam­i­lies get the run-around from tele­coms gi­ants when they try to com­plete a sim­ple task like can­celling a mo­bile phone con­tract.

When a loved one dies, the list of jobs you are faced with is end­less — in­form­ing rel­a­tives, plan­ning a fu­neral, ap­ply­ing for pro­bate, cash­ing in pen­sions and in­surance poli­cies to name a few. Can­celling a phone con­tract should take min­utes — and shouldn’t mean those left be­hind are out of pocket.

Have a heart, for good­ness sake.

Sales’ black mark

SALE shop­ping has never been my bag. This is in part be­cause I’m ter­ri­ble at it — my eyes are im­me­di­ately drawn away from the messy heaps of bargains to the shiny, full-price items neatly lined up in size-or­der.

I also don’t like the thought of stum­bling across some­thing I’ve just bought that’s now half-price. But what’s even more off-putting is that it’s so hard to know for sure if you are get­ting a good deal.

Take Black Fri­day — which is fast be­com­ing my most hated time of year. Not only does it seem to last for most of Novem­ber, but re­search by Which? has re­vealed that just one in 20 items is ac­tu­ally cheap­est on Black Fri­day.

With Box­ing Day sales now start­ing the week be­fore Christ­mas, should we all just wait un­til then to buy cut-price gifts?

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