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FTC finds about a third of funeral homes investigated aren’t following rules

Cemetery Ritzille IMG_1480One of the first investigative articles I wrote as a consumer journalist was about funeral practices. In an informal survey, I found that about two thirds of the consumers I spoke to said a funeral home had used one of the questionable practices the Federal Trade Commission was proposing to regulate.

Although the FTC’s Funeral Rule was adopted in 1984, the agency’s investigators, working undercover in six states, found failures to disclose funeral pricing information to consumers in 27 of the 100 funeral homes they visited during 2014.

The Federal Trade Commission conducts undercover inspections every year to make sure that funeral homes comply with the agency’s Funeral Rule.

The rule, issued in 1984, gives consumers rights when making funeral arrangements. It require funeral homes to provide consumers with an itemized price list at the start of a discussion of funeral arrangements, a casket price list before consumers view any caskets, and an outer burial container price list before they view grave liners or vaults.

The rule also prohibits funeral homes from requiring consumers to buy any item, such as a casket, as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service.

By requiring itemized prices, the Funeral Rule enables consumers to compare prices and buy only the goods and services they want.

Funeral homes with price list disclosure violations can enter a training program to increase compliance with the Funeral Rule. This year all the homes found in violation chose to enter the program run by the National Funeral Directors Association rather possibility being fined by the FTC.

The FTC inspections showed the following number of funeral homes failed to make price list disclosures:

  • In Northwest Arkansas, five of the 16.
  • In Bakersfield, Calif., seven of the 11.
  • In Annapolis, Md., and vicinity, four of 13.
  • In St. Louis, Mo., three of 16.
  • In Westchester County, N.Y., three of 29.
  • In Seattle, Wash., five of 15.

In addition, the FTC identified a number of funeral homes, in the six states, with minor compliance deficiencies. The FTC requires these funeral homes to provide evidence that they’ve corrected the problems.

Since the training program for funeral directors began in 1996, the FTC has inspected more than 2,900 funeral homes, and found 503 homes with violations, 486 of which have agreed to enter the program.

For more information on funeral costs, see Shopping for Funeral Services, “Paying Final Respects: Your Rights When Buying Funeral Goods and Services, and Complying with the Funeral Rule.”

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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