Over time various people have contacted me through this blog to complain about something related to the funeral industry. These complaints are quite rare and often varied, yet one thing remains common between them. That the majority of people don't know who to complain to or how to complain.
Many are not really much asking for my advice so much as who to contact. As such here is a post on how to complain. Remember, I am based in Sydney so this information is aimed for the Sydney funeral industry.
It should be noted that while I strongly recommend complaining if there is an issue, however minor, the complaint should be justified. Not enough people lodge legitimate complaints about the funeral industry. That is, many complaints made are due to unrealistic expectations due to a lack of understanding about the industry. Yet at the same time mistakes are made (and often not noticed by the general public) that should be made known.
The first place to send a complaint is always with the the responsible company or companies. An email or phone call to the company directly is the best first step. This will allow the company to directly address the issue and hopefully fix the problem.
However, if contacting the relevant company doesn't fix the issue in a satisfactory way then the next thing would be to send a complaint to the organisations which oversee the funeral industry. The Australian Cemeteries and Crematoria Association oversees both cemeteries and crematoriums (ACCA, website here). Both the Australian Funeral Directors Association (AFDA, website here) and Independent Funeral Directors Association of Australia (IFAA, website here) oversee funeral homes.
Membership for these organisations is completely voluntary, as in a company does not have to join these groups to operate. However, these organisations hold members to a decent standard and would look into any serious issues raised about their members. Admittedly there is a debate about the effectiveness of these organisations in terms of enforcing regulations and investigating issues. Yet this is still an important step in any serious complaint about a funeral company.
If the funeral company is owned by InvoCare then another possibility is to contact InvoCare directly (contact details here). InvoCare is the largest funeral company in Australia, owning several crematoriums, cemeteries, and funeral homes. This means complaints about an InvoCare company can be sent to InvoCare directly. I know from experience InvoCare does actively enforce a respectable standard across the board, so a complaint will be taken seriously and investigated. You might not see or hear about any changes made due to your complaint, but behind the scenes something will almost certainly be done, even if only to prevent the issue arising again.
The final option is to contact the government if the concern or issue is serious enough. Unfortunately the funeral industry doesn't fall under any one government department, so all departments seem reluctant to get involved with the industry. When contacting the government you will need to contact the department most relevant to that specific issue. For example issues of pricing and quality of service would fall under consumer affairs. While issues of mismanagement of a body or poor hygiene are under the state health department. Then anything to do with the physical building itself (in terms of maintenance, layout, etc) are under the local council.
As such contacting a government body can be both tricky and difficult when deciding and finding which department is most relevant.
Having said all this, I have seen and heard of relatively few issues which should be complained about. Rather, it is the lack of knowledge about what the funeral industry does that is a bigger issue. Some practices, while standard and harmless, might not be what is wanted or appropriate for some people and thus request not to have them. More information about the industry could prevent potential issues and complaints.