Notice to the Profession: The value of displaying the BAO licensing fee and giving it a descriptive name the public prefers
By Jim Cassimatis
Bereavement Authority of Ontario
What’s in a name?
When it comes to the name of the Bereavement Authority of Ontario’s regulatory licensing fee – quite a lot.
You may recall that the fee increase was proposed in my Feb. 6 message with a survey for you, and formally announced three weeks ago with a start date of July 1, 2023.
Your choice – but let’s be consistent
In the event that you, as a licensed operator, choose to make the BAO licensing fee transparent on service contracts with consumers and on your online and printed price list – then we recommend applying a consistent name for it that the public has told us they prefer. (More on this later.)
The choice is yours.
If you do choose to make it public, it will be important to provide consumers with a descriptive name that clearly and concisely tells people the fee’s purpose, starting when the new rates go into place on July 1.
We want people to easily understand what the fee is for and who it goes to, so you and your business don’t have to spend much time explaining it. A good transparent name can help with that.
That’s why I am recommending this name, for business operators choosing to display the fee as a separate line item on your service contracts and price lists:
- Bereavement Authority of Ontario Consumer Protection Fee
The reasons I recommend using this name are that it:
- Provides clarity to consumers
- Builds trust by demonstrating your business’ and the bereavement sector’s commitment to accountability
- Answers the initial question “What’s this for?”
- Puts the reason for the fee on the BAO itself, rather than your business
- Provides consistency and minimizes confusion, when used by all or most bereavement sector businesses choosing to display it
- Is the public’s heavily preferred name
Many licensees don’t like the term “consumer protection”
We know from our licensee survey with you in February and March that there is a strong preference for showing the BAO fee. The vast majority of BAO licensees who took the survey (67 per cent) told us that they want to show the fee on their online and printed price lists and on their service contracts with consumers.
But we also know that there are many licensees who don’t like the term “consumer protection” in reference to the BAO’s role – as it implies that there is a need to be protected from bereavement businesses.
We know this from hearing you over the years and from licensees who have said as much about the term “consumer protection” in a recent trade paper article.
The public likes it – a lot
We also know that the public likes the name and that they approve of the fee – more so when it is labelled as the Bereavement Authority of Ontario Consumer Protection Fee.
We know this from a third party, anonymous, statistically valid public survey conducted in April 2023. When informed about the BAO’s purpose, Ontarians told the professional pollster they are strongly on-board with the licensing fees being implemented on July 1.
Fully 82 per cent told the pollster they support the change to transparency about the licence fees being shown as a specific line item on contracts and price lists.
Ontarians further told the pollster that the fee should be described as a BAO Consumer Protection Fee (55 per cent). The polling revealed that this is driven by the public’s sense that the fee:
- Protects consumers
- Makes them feel safe, and
- Accurately and clearly describes what it does
The pollster reported that “Ontarians will overwhelmingly support this transparent licence fee if described in their preferred way (as 70 per cent said). Only six per cent would oppose it with another 24 per cent still unsure of their level of support.
However, among those with an opinion, 92 per cent would support the licence fees if it was described in their preferred way.” A total of 800 surveys were conducted by the pollster. Overall, results are accurate to within +/- 3.5%, 19/20 times.
As a profession, it’s appropriate that we respect what resonates with the public for the name of the fee.
With that information in hand, I am respectfully asking and recommending to you, as licensed operators, to each adopt the public’s preferred name of the licensing fee. They are paying for it after all.
Consistency of the fee’s name across our sector would also minimize any confusion that could arise when people see it on one bereavement business website price list and a different name on another business’ price list.
Again, I highlight that the option of displaying the fee is yours as licensed business owners and operators. If you do opt to display it on your contracts and price lists, please do call it by the public’s favoured name.
As a pass-through cost to the consumer, it is appropriate that this Bereavement Authority of Ontario Consumer Protection Fee is placed under the disbursements section of your contracts/invoices with consumers. If you choose to list this fee in your contracts, we also urge you to list it as a disbursement in your printed and online price lists on your websites.
To assist you, we will provide revised sample contracts for your optional use. This will be announced, with links to the revised sample contracts, in a future issue of the BAO’s LifeLine newsletter for licensees. Stay tuned.
We know you are professionals
We know it is by no means the wild west in our bereavement sector, which is overwhelmingly professional, compliant with the law and very attentive to the needs of grieving families and individuals. You are professionals.
I thank you for your constant professionalism in your dealings with the public. It’s vital to grieving families that they know they can confidently trust your business and the bereavement sector at large at an emotional time of need. It’s something you prove every day.
Today’s Registrar’s Notice is a follow-up to my message to you on May 1:
Notice to the Profession – 60-day Notice: Licence fee increase begins on July 1, 2023
Starting on July 1, 2023, licensed operators may choose to charge the BAO licensing fee as a standalone fee. Those who do, must disclose it on business contracts with consumers and in online and printed price lists for consumers to see.
Information for questions
For business operators, who choose to display the fee, here is some information you may use in answering questions about the fee once people see it displayed starting on July 1, 2023.
What’s the fee for?
The fee is charged by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) in order to provide its services of information on your options in bereavement services and to regulate the profession making sure the law is consistently followed. Please read the BAO’s free Consumer Information Guide on its website or in print (offer printed copy to anyone who wants it).
The BAO’s regulatory work includes responding to public complaints, inspecting and providing guidance to bereavement businesses and professionals, which it licenses across Ontario to better serve you – the public. The BAO is wholly funded by licensee fees (not tax dollars).
What is the BAO?
The Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) is a government delegated authority and not-for-profit corporation administering provisions of the Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002 (FBCSA) on behalf of the Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery.
Responsible for protection of the public interest, the BAO regulates and supports licensed:
- Funeral establishment operators, directors and preplanners;
- Cemetery, crematorium and alternative disposition operators;
- Transfer service operators; and
- Bereavement sector sales representatives across Ontario.
You can learn more about it on its website TheBAO.ca.