Widow threatened with debt collectors after funeral director’s bill blunder

Barbara Warburton

Barbara Warburton she been told she has to pay an extra £1,000 towards the cost of her husband's funeral. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A widow who lost her husband after 57 years of marriage says she was threatened with debt collectors over an extra £1,000 bill resulting from a mistake by funeral directors. 

Barbara Warburton, 79, from Hellesdon, said she was told bailiffs could be called in unless she pays the additional amount almost three months after the funeral of her late husband Robert.

Barbara Warburton with a cushion bearing the image of her late husband Robert

Barbara Warburton with a cushion bearing the image of her late husband Robert who died in February. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mr Warburton, who had been suffering from vascular dementia, died in February aged 78 after contracting coronavirus. 

His widow was quoted £4,353 for his funeral by the East of England Co-Op Funeral Services, including £400 for cemetery costs.

Following her husband's funeral in April she paid the bill in full but she subsequently received a fresh demand for £1,000 for cemetery fees.

The new bill is for £938 after a £68 reduction as a “goodwill credit”. 

Barbara Warburton reading new funeral cost bill.

Barbara Warburton thought she had paid the £4,353 bill of the funeral of her husband but has been billed an extra £1,000 following a mistake by Co-Op Funeral Services. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mrs Warburton said: “When the bill came it was exactly the same as the estimate, so I paid it but then over two months later they said we’ve made a mistake and you owe us another £1,000.

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“It’s so upsetting having just lost my husband. It’s a lot of money for me.” 

The youngest of the couple’s four sons, Stuart Warburton, said: “Mum still has my dad’s picture on a cushion juist so she can feel close to him.

“It’s all still so fresh and just as she was getting used to him being gone, then having them get in touch like this is just so insensitive.”

Barbara Warburton funeral bill

The funeral bill paid Barbara Warburton included £400 for cemetery fees, but she has been asked to pay an extra £1,000 after the Co-Op said it had miscalculated. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A spokesperson for the East of England Co-op Funeral Services, said: "Unfortunately, we made an administrative error which resulted in an incorrect invoice being initially sent to our client. 

"We are very sorry for the upset and concern this has caused."

The company said it was attempting to resolve the dispute and had provided details of NAFD, the free and independent dispute resolution service. 

Barbara Warburton

Barbara Warburton says she has been told debt collectors could be called in over extra funeral charge, but the Co-Op says it has now paused action to find a resolution. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"Further requests for payment have been paused to allow our client time to make use of this service so the matter can be resolved impartially," they added.

“We take great pride in providing a high quality service to all our funeral services clients, and we are very sorry that on this occasion we have fallen short. Our invoicing process is being reviewed to ensure this error is not repeated."