Date: Mon, Jul 12, 1999 4:28 PM
Subject: "16 CFR Part 453"
July 12, 1999
Federal Trade Commission
SUBJECT: "16 CFR Part 453" Funeral Rule Expansion of rule to cover Cemeteries et al
I am advised that you are exploring the possibility of expanding the funeral rule to include cemeteries and monutment dealers. I further understand that this may be limited to applying the concept of the GPL to cemeteries and monument dealers.
I want to make you aware that in the case of the Commonwealth of Virginia this action would be unnecessary and superfluous and indeed less extensive in scope than the rules of the Virginia Cemetery Board. As I understand that your authority does not extend to so called non-profits.
In Virginia we have as recently as 1998 adopted new legislation which provides certain changes in the way the Commonwealth exercises oversight over the cemetery industry and certina consumer protection issues. Even now we have a study underway to study whether and to what extent consumers are dissatisfied with the services of exempt cemeteries and the method and means available to address their needs. The results of this study are to be submitted to the Virginia General Assembly in 2000.
The concept of the GPL is already embodied in Virginia law. And the Virginia Cemetery Board has made its intepretation of the best manner to implement same.
As chairman of the Virginia Cemetery Board I listen to many consumers and industry players. I am quite concerned of the effect of a duplicate set of rules covering the same issue and the additional burden this places on the industry. I am also concerned about the possibility of sanctions imposed on regulants by both my Board and yourselves for what amounts to essentially the same act or ommission.
Our mandate at the Virginia Cemetery Board of course includes consumer protection and we would have the authority to intervene in a single case, not just where a broad pattern emerges. Our authority also extends to monument dealers which sell pre-need any items 60 days in advance of that need.
Therefore I would encourage you NOT to extend the funeral rule to cemeteries. And leave these matters to the states and localities. If for some reason you feel the need to extend the rule to cemeteries then I believe there should be some ceding of jurisdiction where the concept is already embodied in local or state law. This would to be to eliminate overlapping and duplicative jurisdictions and sanctions.
I appreciate the opportunity to share these thoughts with you. If you would like any specific information with regard to the situation here in Virginia please feel free to ask me any questions and I will most happily respond.
William S. French, Jr., Chairman