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In France, Cultural Changes Contribute To Rise Of Low-Budget Funerals

Funeral costs went up by a third in the past decade despite the passage of a 1993 law designed to help prevent that from happening. Several new companies are offering much more affordable services, often through the Internet.

What’s the Latest Development?

The last year has seen major changes in France’s funeral industry, with an influx of companies now offering its services for prices that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. One pioneer budget franchise, Roc-Eclerc, which is currently offering a bottom-of-the-range cremation for €2,500 (about $3,200), now finds itself competing with newer companies like Ecoplus (where prices start at €1,250, or about $1,600) and Clair Obsèques (currently offering burials for €1,180, or about $1,511). Both of these companies have Web sites where, unlike other price-comparison sites designed to lure customers to higher-cost options, the deals offered are the deals they claim to have.

What’s the Big Idea?

Despite the passage of a 1993 law designed to open up the industry to more companies and help lower costs, funerals have become even more expensive, with prices rising by a third between 2001 and 2011. However, the current economic crisis is uncovering more people who either can’t or won’t spend lots of money for a funeral, bucking French tradition. Even the city of Paris’ funeral department began offering low-cost services when they started noticing people who wanted alternatives to private morticians. Department head François Michaud Nérard says, “[Customers] want to be able to make their choice freely and not have to face someone who will make them feel guilty for not buying the most expensive coffin.”

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