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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