Mediation is an extra-judicial solution to relieve the courts. Indeed, the time when only a summons to settle a dispute with a professional market sector is over. The consumer can now bring in a Consumer Mediator—a natural person—free of charge to negotiate a reasonable solution and thus avoid a long trial with an uncertain outcome. Since January 1, 2018, there is only one mediator for the funeral sector and all operators are concerned. The costs related to this intervention are borne by the professionals. This information must also be included in the GSC, in purchase orders and on the website otherwise they may face a penalty fine of up to 15 000 euros.
The French Confederation of Funeral Home and Marble Professionals (CPFM) and the French Union of Public Funeral Home Professionals (UPFP) have created an association that is the interface between professionals and consumers. The mediator has a large number of documents and a website in French presenting a great deal of information for consumers to assess the possibility of submitting a case, to fill out a direct request for online mediation, and to know if their application is eligible or not to this procedure. Every professional in the funeral sector is free to accept or refuse mediation. In addition, there are a number of cases of exclusion from the use of mediation: unfounded or abusive requests, absence of attempt to settle the dispute amicably beforehand, request made more than one year after the written complaint to a professional, etc. If the appeal is rejected, the mediator has three weeks to inform the consumer. If the appeal is admissible and the professional accepts it, then the outcome of the mediation must occur no later than 3 months from the date of notification of the referral. This period may be extended in the event of a complex dispute after the parties have been notified.
The opinion of the mediator is never enforceable. If mediation fails, the parties remain free to take legal action. Indeed, any mediation agreement has the character of a private contract. The mediator manages the conflict and strives to find a solution to the conflictual environment. As such, he is bound by a set of ethical and deontological rules—impartiality, independence, neutrality, confidentiality, responsibility and loyalty. But the mediator is not intended to base his/her decision on a strict application of the law. His/Her mission is simply to support the parties in finding an equitable solution. He/She has no obligation of result. At the end of the mediation, a written agreement—also called a “protocol”—can be written and signed by both parties and, if necessary, approved by a judge at the expense of the parties. It is only at that time that the litigation cannot be brought to court.
The work of the mediator thus helps in relieving the courts while seeking solutions “from above”. This approach is virtuous for both funeral professionals and families!