The UK competition regulator is to investigate the takeover of funeral homes by the Central England Co-op amid increased scrutiny of the industry.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said on Monday that it is launching a merger inquiry into the deal by the large regional co-operative to snap up part of the funerals business of rival, the Midcounties Co-op.
Earlier this year, the Central England Co-op confirmed the deal which would consolidate more funeral sites into its operations.
The operator said the move would see it acquire 50 Midcounties funeral homes, taking its total number of homes to 182 and helping to extend its reach further across the UK.
The deal will also include two vehicle logistics sites, as well as Midcounties’ pre-paid funeral plan business.
Under the agreement, 252 workers from Midcounties Funeralcare will join Central England Co-op after the transaction is completed.
On Monday, the CMA said that it is considering whether the deal “may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition” within the market.
The regulator added that a deadline of October 11 has been set for its phase 1 decision, when it will decide if a more thorough phase 2 probe is needed.
The investigation comes after a period of thorough scrutiny of the funeral care sector by the CMA.
The watchdog said in June that funeral directors and crematorium operators must make prices clear to customers or risk court action further down the line amid fears that people could be overpaying for services.