The Ontario Monument Builders Association (OMBA) recently reached out to MBNA for support in their ongoing challenges with unfair cemetery business practices that are condoned and being promoted by the Province of Ontario.
The Bereavement Authority of Ontario, established as a Delegated Administrative Authority (DAA) in January 2016, is mandated to administer provisions of the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002 (FBCSA) on behalf of the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. Responsible for protection of the public interest, the Bereavement Authority of Ontario regulates and supports licensed funeral establishments, cemetery operators, crematorium operators, transfer service operators, funeral directors, funeral preplanners, transfer service sales representatives, cemetery sales representatives, and crematorium sales representatives across Ontario.
This largely unregulated agency is self-sufficient through licensing fees, allowing some of the large combination / corporate players, including private, non-profit and faith-based cemeteries and corporations a perceived sizable amount of control.
After several lengthy meetings between the BAO’s executive team and OMBA’s legislative committee in 2017, OMBA was advised their concerns regarding cemetery actions to restrict trade and eliminate competition were of the lowest concern to the agency.
At the same time, changes at the Competition Bureau of Canada (a federal institution that is part of the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada portfolio) led OMBA to believe there was opportunity to address these unfair practices to benefit monument companies and consumers across the country. The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace. Headed by the Commissioner of Competition, the Bureau is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Competition Act. They are concerned about consumer abuse and unfair business practices by monopolies that undermine fairness in the marketplace. They act as investigator and prosecutor and historically investigate national issues; however, as of late, they have broadened their mandate to smaller industries.
A Canada-wide corporation that owns funeral homes and cemeteries and sells cremation services, bronze markers and granite uprights across the country has been involved in several, well documented instances of consumer abuse that have remained largely unchallenged by provincial regulators. They have been featured for their aggressive sales practices and high prices on a national televised news investigation. OMBA hopes that the Competition Bureau sees fit to address this and other related issues.
To prepare a brief for the Competition Bureau's deliberation, OMBA has retained the legal firm Cassels Brock, located in Toronto, and spent many hours discussing restrictive trade practices. OMBA also retained secret shoppers who have provided evidence of excess charges for memorials and compulsory cemetery installed foundations.
It is the belief of the OMBA Board that an investigation by this Federal Competition Bureau will have positive consequences for all monument builders and consumers across the country. If successful, there will be direct benefits for OMBA members and Canadian MBNA members and any significant well-funded investigation of unfair business practices by Combos that result in charges or positive changes to our industry, will also have an impact across North America.
To date, OMBA has raised considerable funding towards the legal costs. As the legal firm approaches the final stages of preparing the brief, OMBA has reached out to MBNA for assistance.
MBNA’s Executive Committee proudly approved a contribution to eliminate the immediate shortfall and we will be working closely with the leaders of OMBA to see how the organization can continue to support our members in the north.
MBNA is excited to be represented at OMBA’s Annual Convention at the Americana Resort in Niagara Falls, Ontario on February 27 – March 1, 2020!