What's the problem?

Closing accounts when a loved one dies is too difficult and often expensive. Many firms continue to charge customers after they have passed away, and put layers of bureaucracy in the way of relatives being able to close accounts and reconcile affairs.

Many firms still insist on paper death certificates - and the government does not provide any kind of digital death certificate.

This can leave relatives hanging on the phone, and then forced to mail physical paperwork to companies - turning what should be a simple task into a lengthy and upsetting one.

Some companies, particularly investment firms, also charge customers long after they have died, and don't refund charges back to the date death if it takes a while to complete the bureaucracy of closing the account.

Our report - the cost and bureaucracy of dying - highlights the problems for customers, as well as showing some examples of good practice and what's possible.

In the 21st century - all of this should be easier to do. That's why we are launching a campaign to make the process simpler.

What's the solution?

We have four recommendations to government and the service industry regulators.


Government should urgently begin work on creating digital death certificates, which would enable customers to easily provide proof of death without having to phone or post proof. This should include interim digital death certificates for those families who are awaiting outcomes from a coroner.


As part of its work to create digital death certificates, the government should follow through on the recommendations of the Varney report, providing consumers with digital identities which facilitate registration of births and changes of address to be managed digitally. In doing so, it should legislate to require companies to register all accounts against a consumer’s digital identity – ensuring that no assets are lost in new accounts that are opened.


The Department of Business, Enterprise & Industrial Strategy should amend the Consumer Rights Act, to include new rules on maximum timescales for account closures and customer refunds after a person’s death – backed up by enforcement penalties for non-compliance.


The key service regulators – the Financial Conduct Authority, Ofwat, Ofcom and Ofgem – should introduce new regulations to prevent firms from charging any more than their costs after a customer dies, including an outright ban on cancellation and account closure fees. This should include a requirement that firms refund charges in excess of costs back to the date of death if notification is delayed. As legislation and regulation will take time to come to fruition, service industry trade bodies should encourage firms to sign up to Fairer Finance’s Dignity after Death charter

The cost and bureaucracy of dying


Death Notification Report March 2022


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