August 9, 1999
Re: 16 CFR Part 453
Dear FTC Secretary:
The Illinois Funeral Directors Association hereby responds to the questions found in the Federal Register, which are quite comprehensive.
1. Is there a continuing need for the Funeral Rule?
a) What benefits, if any, has the Rule provided to purchasers of funeral goods and services?
b) Has the Rule imposed costs on purchasers?
The Illinois Funeral Directors Association and its members believe that the Funeral Rule has served its purpose and could readily be made optional.
a) The benefits, we believe, assist the consumer in comparing and selecting funeral goods and services. However, it has not necessarily had the result expected by the FTC.
b) The IFDA does not believe that the Rule has imposed costs on consumers. It has, however, imposed considerable costs on me and other providers of funeral goods and services who are licensed, ethical funeral directors. It has given a competitive edge to those who sell caskets or other funeral merchandise but who do not provide funeral services. We believe that if the Rule is not dropped, all sellers or providers should make comparable disclosures.
2. What changes, if any, should be made to the Rule to increase the benefits of the Rule to purchasers?
a) How would these changes affect the costs the Rule imposes on the funeral providers subject to its requirements?
The Illinois Funeral Directors Association believes that the changes should be applicable to all who choose to provide such services and/or merchandise.
3. What significant burdens or costs, if any, including costs of compliance, has the Rule imposed on funeral providers subject to its requirements
a) Has the Rule provided benefits to such funeral providers?
The most burdensome effect has been to alienate consumers who are rightfully indignant that they are presented with pricing information before they have even decided whether to actually do business with the firm. This requirement must be relaxed as it clearly is an obnoxious act dictated by the FTC to a consumerís detriment.
One of the Ruleís benefits is that is has caused funeral providers to better understand their operating expenses. As professionals, we have learned to both calculate and explain our professional fees.
4. What changes, if any, should be made to the Rule to reduce the burdens or costs imposed on funeral providers subject to its requirements?
a) How would these changes affect the benefits provided by the Rule?
One of the mandatory changes that must be made to the Rule is to allow funeral directors to have an appropriate service fee for the casket. IFDA, after study and review, believes that the real costs involved in the receipt of the merchandise can reasonably be $300. A service fee of, say, up to $100 has been justified by detailed analysis conducted by current National Funeral Directors Association President David Pearson, who also is a Certified Public Accountant. A copy of his findings have been broadly reported in the media. A copy is attached.
Most of the burdens have been addressed and are history. Equalizing the requirement for all providers to use a General Price List would be an acceptable approach. What exists now is funeral directors have costly obligations from which other providers are currently exempt.
5. Does the Rule overlap or conflict with other federal, state or local laws or regulations?
Sure! New York, New Jersey and other states have other provisions.
6. Since the Rule was issued, what effects, if any, have changes in relevant technology or economic conditions had on the Rule?
Actually, the Rule has had an adverse effect on funeral service providers because third-party sellers, such as casket stores, can now deliver merchandise to the funeral home and shift significant costs to the funeral home for the receiving, handling, inspection, cleaning, movement and sheltering of the casket. These additional cost burdens have to be reflected in the professional service changes because thatís the only place the additional costs can be captured. It is the funeral home which pays for the third-party expenses. That is cruel and unjust.
7. What significant burdens or costs, if any, including costs of compliance, has the Rule imposed on small funeral providers subject to its requirements?
a) How do these burdens or costs differ from those imposed on larger funeral providers subject to the Ruleís requirements?
Those initial costs have largely been expended and the requirement for a GPL is no longer a significant cost element to the funeral director, although it does involve periodic review, update, reprinting and associated distribution efforts.
The burdens are more significant for smaller operators because they can spread those costs over only a limited number of services as opposed to a larger service volume provider. The costs are fixed, giving larger providers a lesser burden which defeats balanced competition.
8. To what extent are the burdens or costs that the Rule imposes on small funeral providers similar to those that small funeral providers would incur under standard and prudent business practices?
Every firm, large or small, has to be cost-effective, competitive and affordable.
9. What changes, if any, should be made to the Rule to reduce the burdens or costs imposed small funeral providers?
a) How would these changes affect the benefits of the Rule?
b) Would such changes adversely affect the competitive position of larger funeral providers?
IFDA does believe that there are some ongoing burdens to either large or small funeral providers as they relate to a GPL. Funeral directors should at least be allowed to charge reasonable casket service fees to offset their legitimate expenditures.
10. How, if at all, has the Rule affected the relative number of consumers who contact more than one funeral home before deciding which one to use?
Today, funeral service is experiencing some increase in the number of persons seeking funeral price information. The Illinois Funeral Directors Association does not consider this an unreasonable consumer response. We, too, are price conscious when selecting services or wares.
11. How, if at all, has the Rule benefited consumers by:
a) Alerting consumers to the importance of price information and ensuring that they obtain such information at the critical point of choosing a provider?
b) Providing information about different purchase options?
c) Protecting consumers from injurious misrepresentations?
d) Requiring authorization prior to embalming?
e) Prohibiting providers from conditioning the purchase of a wanted item on the purchase of an unwanted item?
a) Consumers who are inexperienced may derive some benefits. Consumers, however, usually return to the familiar surroundings of a funeral home which provides good service. The IFDA estimates that perhaps 70% or more of a funeral directorís business is repeat business within the family being served. They return to the professionals who have demonstrated they know how to serve well.
b) Funeral directors have been providing options, based upon consumersí needs, for decades. It is the way they win repeat business. No one who is dissatisfied goes back to a firm which did not serve their family properly the first or fifth time.
c) The satisfaction rate, as provided by consumers in surveys, is 97%+ satisfaction. That indicates that injurious misrepresentations have not been the work of licensed professionals who, collectively, service millions of families.
d) Requiring authorization prior to embalming is a thoughtful thing to do. Sometimes, particularly when a family is not readily available, it puts pressure on the funeral director whether to go ahead with embalming, which may be a necessity, or to wait and have to deal with a more complicated embalming procedure.
e) Providers donít condition the purchase of a wanted item on a family who didnít want some other item. How many situations can you document in the past 15 years and 30 million funerals, please?
12. How have prices changed (in total and for specific funeral goods and services) since the Rule was amended in 1994? To what extent, if at all, are these changes attributable to the Rule?
The Rule did not significantly change the total price of a funeral for consumers. Since the inception of the Rule, funeral directors have learned more about their actual costs and have become more adept at recovering those costs under the professional service fee, as opposed to marking up merchandise to recover labor and profit.
13. Has the relative prevalence of: a) ground burials; b) cremations; c) above-ground entombment; or d) other dispositions, increased or decreased since the Rule was amended in 1994? To what extent, if at all, has the Rule influenced these changes?
Ground burials have decreased and cremations have increased, but they are not particularly related to the Rule. There are economic or personal conditions based upon consumer choices that have caused cremation rates to increase. Above ground entombment is increasing, to some extent, as an alternative to in-ground burial. IFDA knows that these are cultural changes not related to the Funeral Rule. As the price of grave space, openings and closings have gone up more rapidly, people seek cemetery cost relief by using cremation and scattering of ashes.
14. How, if at all, since the Rule was amended in 1994, have the following factors changed?
a) The number, size and types of providers of funeral goods and services in the industry?
b) The ability of new providers, both traditional and non-traditional, to enter the industry?
c) What types of non-traditional entrants have appeared in the industry, and how are they different from traditional providers?
d) Mergers and other types of consolidation in the funeral industry?
e) Funeral industry membersí profits?
a) The number of providers of funeral goods has not changed dramatically. The few casket stores and third-party sellers are offset by the smaller firms who have left funeral service as they have in other industries or professions. New providers such as sales of caskets on the internet or cemetery efforts to sell caskets and casket stores have found niche markets, of a small dimension. We know no funeral directors who have been forced out of the profession, although their ability to earn a profit, on modest volume, has decreased.
b) The opportunities for new providers are as large, today, as they were in 1994. Protection for consumers is much needed in the cemetery arena.
c) Only time will tell whether the non-traditional entrants, such as internet sales of caskets or casket stores as examples, will succeed. They differ only in that they claim price savings. That does not necessarily mean that the quality is equal. Someone can always make something cheaper and attract those who are either not able to pay a reasonable but higher price but simply choose not to do so.
d) Mergers and other types of consolidation firms in the funeral profession have experienced some painful lessons. Consolidators, who in the past have paid huge premiums in order to purchase funeral homes in a sellerís market, are now experiencing lower profits and even reorganization of their business. Acquisition companies are not a threat to the efficient smaller operator because he or she better knows his market and the people in that market. Since acquisition firms have a propensity to increase their prices, the smaller volume firm is clearly more competitive in most instances.
e) Funeral industry profits have been stable to slightly declining, as a percentage of total sales price. Part of that may be related to the Rule, but more of it is related to the requirements by OSHA, Americans With Disability Act and other requirements that place far more financial burden on all operators, particularly smaller business firms.
15. How, if at all, has the Rule affected the cremation industry? Should the Rule be amended to include within its scope unfair and deceptive practices by crematories, if any?
Organizations which use deceptive practices, crematories or anyone, should pay a price for those deceptions because they are always discerned. Cremations are going to increase, not because of any particular greater affinity for the process, but rather it has become a viable alternative to burial. In the long run, it is less expensive because typically a vault, plot and opening/closing charges are eliminated.
16. To what extent are providers of funeral goods and services complying with the Rule overall, and with each of its component requirements?
Based upon the inquiries received by the Illinois Funeral Directors Association, very few complaints have to do with pricing. Funeral directors are complying with the GPL and other requirements of the Rule. We believe that the compliance rate is over 90% and growing. The FTC sweeps have been effective in highlighting the need for exact compliance. However, reports from those who have been shopped by the American Association of Retired Person (AARP) indicate that some of their maneuvers were intended to dupe a funeral director into engaging in discussions marginally related to prices that were a form of entrapment. We believe the FTC recognizes that has occurred and they have improved the training of those who test funeral homes. The FTC was careless in training to an extent that some funeral directors took the FROP option because they felt trapped.
17. What difficulties, if any, are providers of funeral goods and services experiencing in complying with the Rule?
Our association does not believe that funeral directors are having a difficulty in complying with the Rule except to the extent that the Rule prohibits a casket handling fee. We understand that some licensees, early on, charged handling fees than could not be justified. However, there are additional costs and if a fee in the $200 or so range were allowed, the funeral directors wonít have a significant problem in complying.
The FTC should remind itself it does not have a right to force funeral directors to work free, so that casket manufacturers can have an economic edge. Your decision was thoughtlessly wrong.
18. How has the National Funeral Directors Associationís Funeral Rule Offenders Program (FROP) affected compliance with the Rule, if at all?
Our Illinois Funeral Directors Association believes that the FROP is not necessarily in the best interest of consumers. We commend NFDA and the FTC for trying to come up with some reasonable accommodation to the huge cost of defending against an FTC unilateral decision. Our sense is that the funeral directors have saved some money, but theyíve also avoided disclosure of their prosecution. Fines help, but disclosure puts consumers on alert. NFDA and the FTC get some financial benefits. However, the arrangement that involves engaging ďAARP Fraud SquadsĒ is inappropriate.
19. Do consumers who receive itemized price information at the inception of the arrangement conference tend to spend less on funerals than those who receive such information later?
The IFDA membershipís average sale continues to increase, which indicates the Rule is making firms better marketers. We know that funeral directors are caregivers. It is impossible to be perceived as a sensitive, caring person when you are faced with a grieving family and have to immediately hand them a GPL. It makes them defensive and it irritates them. Unfortunately, the blame for such insensitivity falls on the shoulders of the funeral director who otherwise would lay the foundation of a relationship with the family before charging ahead on handing out the GPL. The IFDA believes that the FTC puts far more reliance and takes much more credit for accomplishment related to the GPL and the Rule than it should. Its best ingredient is that is somewhat more uniform. People will still spend what they choose to spend.
If you think about it, the question implies that perhaps an earlier disclosure will cause people to spend less and thatís the reason the funeral directors donít want to make the disclosure. Actually, the FTCís files are filled with strong and consistent testimony, by funeral directors, in past hearings, where even the hearing officer recognized that bringing out a GPL, immediately, is offensive, unprofessional and totally inappropriate. There is a time for everything and giving a GPL when you first meet a grieving family is not the time to do that. To that extent, the FTC has fostered discontent, by consumers, with the funeral director. These funeral providers have broad experience as counselors as people who are experienced in dealing with grieving families and who can better judge when to enter discussions related to financial obligations. FTC demands on the GPL offend! Let the professionals tend to the familyís needs.
20. Do consumers who make preneed arrangements spend less on funerals than those who do not? If so, why? Does receiving information at the inception of a preneed arrangement conference contribute to decreased spending? Does it encourage or facilitate comparison shopping?
It varies! The Illinois Funeral Directors Association has access to information on some $220 million in preneed accounts where the average sale is in the range of about $4,600. That is well below the average funeral sale, but really isnít related to how much the people choose to spend. Most people who make prearrangements are doing so for either themselves, because of health conditions, or on behalf of parents who might even be going on public aid where restrictions inhibit them from spending as much as they might choose to on their loved one. Immediate delivery of the GPL, at the inception of the preneed arrangement conference, upsets clients at the insensitivity of the funeral director. FTC commissioners should be sitting in the funeral directorís shoes when the people take offense at his apparent ďletís talk priceĒ attitude. It serves no one well and the FTC should change that. We donít even believe itís ethical for you to demand that a GPL be given at a particular time, as long as it is communicated to the family before they make choices. The family canít make judgments just by looking at a GPL. They inquire. They try to find comparisons of other things. Generally, price is not even the issue. Family members are much more concerned about how Mom will look, what meaningful ways can be developed to memorialize a loved one and the like. The FTC is hung up on pricing issues which typically are not a familyís concern.
21. Should the requirement that itemized price lists be given to consumers at the beginning of discussions about funeral arrangements be modified? If so, how? What would be the relative costs and benefits of such a modified provision?
Yes, the GPL needs to be provided, to the family, at an appropriate time. That means before a sale is consummated. Let the professional work toward the financial discussions after he or she recognizes it is now time to discuss the financial aspects of the arrangement. There would be no cost benefits, but there would be tremendous social benefits in allowing the families to be led to the financial aspects when they are ready. Contrary to what you may believe, funeral service is not primarily about money. It is about service, understanding, empathetic listening and the exercise of social graces which are helpful to the grieving family. After 20 years of fiddling with GPLís, you just donít get it. You canít regulate a familyís choice.
22. Should the Commission expand the definition of ďfuneral providerĒ in order to bring non-traditional members of the funeral industry within the scope of the Funeral Ruleís coverage? Are consumers being harmed by the current limitation on the scope of the Ruleís coverage?
a) What definition should be used to delineate those entities and individuals subject to the Funeral Rule?
b) What are the costs and benefits of broader definitions?
Yes, the Commission should expand the definition of ďfuneral providerĒ in order to bring non-traditional members of the funeral industry within the scope of the Funeral Ruleís coverage. Of course consumers are being harmed. The third-party sellers, who frequently exercise outrageous telephone solicitation and knock-on-the-door type selling, end up selling similar merchandise for much higher prices. Itís only natural that the prices have to be higher because the commission-paid solicitors run up the cemeteriesí operating costs. Most funeral directors donít even have sales people committed to preneed. It is the funeral director who makes the preneed arrangement with the family when they walk in the door. Heís simply doing his job and does not incur any additional costs and therefore doesnít have to recover them in higher prices.
a) The definition could simply be that if they are selling funeral services or funeral merchandise, or both, they must provide a General Price List and, before a choice is made, also provide a casket price list and an outer enclosure price list. Thatís fair.
b) The costs and benefits of extending the GPL and other FTC rules is that there is a mutual obligation on those who are selling the same merchandise or services. If, for example, a third-party seller does not have to comply with the Rule, they have a distinct marketing opportunity to sell preneed, even at higher prices than would be available at a funeral home.
23. Should non-traditional providers of funeral goods and services be subject to only certain provisions of the Funeral Rule?
a) If so, to which provisions should they be subject?
The Rule should be applied to everyone who sells merchandise or services or both. To link services and merchandise together simply eliminates cemeteries from having to comply with reasonable disclosures.
24. Does the prohibition on more than one non-declinable fee reduce barriers to competition and increase consumer choice?
a) Has this prohibition been effective to ensure that consumers can choose and pay for only the individual goods and services that they desire?
b) Has this prohibition been effective to protect consumersí right to decline unwanted goods and services?
c) What are the benefits conferred upon consumers or competition by this prohibition?
d) What costs or other burdens has this provision imposed upon providers of funeral goods and services?
a) Consumers have always been able to buy those services and goods that they desired. People care less about non-declinable fees. They have a budget in mind and care only about the total.
b) The FTC can make all the rules it wants. The families will buy what they want and will refuse to pay for something they donít want.
c) Consumers are going to have to pay for the real costs, plus profit, for the goods or services they request. The FTC canít lower costs by jiggling the requirements around. Eventually, all costs have to be recovered. The Funeral and Memorial Society Association (FAMSA) wants to do away with the non-declinable charge. If you want to do that, know your mistake. The fact is that people canít get the goods and services that they want if they donít pay a fair price for them.
The consumer gets the right to see prices which are reasonably related to their costs, plus a profit. Under unit pricing, which is perfectly acceptable to the FTC, and which will be used more frequently if the FTC Rule is changed, consumers wonít get the benefit of an itemized price list. The danger the FTC faces is actually believing that cost is a primary consideration. Most families go to their former funeral home because of satisfactory service. They appreciate the environment that was created by the professionals. It really isnít about costs. It is about service and understanding.
d) One non-declinable fee is fair. The funeral director can take all or a portion of that fee for partial services. He would do that anyway, with or without the Rule, because itís the right thing to do. People who do the right thing stay in business and those who donít, leave. You donít have second, third and fourth generation funeral directors because theyíve been taking advantage of the public. You have them because theyíve been serving the public.
25. What new fees, prices, goods or services have emerged in the sale of funeral goods and services since the Rule was amended in 1994?
The Rule is being followed. The only fee change that is appropriate is a funeral director service fee in the, say, $200-$300 range.
26. Have the 1994 amendments been effective in prohibiting casket handling fees? If so, what benefits or costs have resulted from these amendments?
The answer is the FTC hasnít eliminated casket handling fees. You have simply placed the burden on those people who buy caskets from the funeral director. They have to pay for the extra cost of service because the FTC has chosen to try to make the funeral director give away that service. You canít do it, and you should allow a reasonable fee based on costs.
If a funeral director takes a vault into a cemetery, the cemetery will always charge not only an opening and closing fee, but a vault handling fee. Think about that. Whatís the difference? There is no difference. They have costs and they have to recover them. By eliminating a fair casket handling fee, the FTC places a burden on those who do business with a funeral director because they have to pay for the free services that the FTC has given away. And where did the FTC get that right? Slavery and indentured servitude were eliminated. Making funeral directors work for third-party sellers, free, is unconstitutional.
27. How widespread is it for funeral providers to offer substantial discounts on funeral packages that include a casket from the funeral home?
Funeral directors are offering more package prices and forms of discounts than they have in the past in order to better compete with the providers of merchandise who take advantage of the FTC Rule and make the funeral director come out and help them unload the casket, move it into their selection room, where they then have to inspect it, clean it and take responsibility for it. Except where there is a nearby casket store, the packaging of discounts has not been very widespread. By and large, third-party sellers charge just as much, or more, if the quality considerations are taken into account! Consumers have learned by that experience.
28. Should the requirement for a General Price List be modified? If so, how?
a) Are there any new fees, prices, goods or services that should be added to the General Price List requirements?
1. Should the Rule require that the price of private viewing without embalming be included on the General Price List?
2. Should the Rule require that the price of donating a body to the medical school be included on the General Price List?
3. Are the Ruleís requirements to disclose on the General Price List the price for direct cremation effective to prevent deception regarding the amount a consumer will pay to have a funeral provider dispose of a body by cremation? Should the Rule also include an express requirement that the disclosed price of ďdirect cremationĒ include the actual price to have a body cremated?
4. Should the Rule require that the price of renting a casket in connection with a cremation be included on the General Price List?
b) Are there any fees, prices or services that should be deleted from the General Price List?
c) Are there any other revisions that should be made to the current provisions in the General Price List?
d) For any change made in response to this question, what, if any, would be the costs and benefits to consumers and to funeral providers?
a) The answer is no. The General Price List is already as complex as it needs to be. We certainly donít need an additional GPL for the less common services such as body donation and the like. This question, 28, is indicative of the FTCís cherished desire to reduce funeral prices, which are already quite competitive. In item #4 you propose a rule that there be a price list for renting a casket. Thereís no requirement for a funeral director to rent a casket. In fact, many people are put off by the idea. Those people are called consumers.
Part b) looks like an invitation to say, ďWhy should we have to pay a non-declinable professional services fee?Ē The answer is because you wanted a General Price List and you didnít want funds allocated to the other areas that properly belong there. Isnít it clear that the FTC itself is driving toward unit pricing? That is the one thing they wanted to eliminate, yet when all overhead items have to be under a non-declinable fee, you simply are creating the overhead category that exists if you have just three or four breakdowns instead of 16.
c) The GPL, if anything, should be made more simple. To add complexity will only frustrate the consumer and give the seller new opportunities to get an edge.
d) There is no change needed for the GPL. It isnít perfect. It canít be because it has unnatural forms of required pricing. However, consumers and funeral directors have at least become acquainted with it and have learned how to manage it in a way which is not negative to either the customer or to the funeral director. Whether you retain the GPL or urge funeral service to use it, itís going to be adopted pretty much the way it is. The reason is that the FTC did give the funeral director a set of guidelines which he is following. Before, there was more of a bartering effort as the funeral director would change the prices in order to accommodate the customer. He still has to compete with his competitor down the street, and they still bargain with those who need help, such as the poor.
Finally on #28, the GPL gives the funeral director every reason in the world to blame the FTC for higher prices. Hopefully they donít do that, but the customer understands that government controls equals higher prices Ė always!
29. The Rule applies to both preneed and at-need funeral arrangements. Should preneed and at-need consumers be treated differently? If so, why?
a) Can a funeral provider readily distinguish between a preneed and an at-need customer or will this complicate compliance with the Rule?
If the GPL is going to be retained for at-need services, then it is also appropriate for preneed. It should simply be the same for all providers of goods and/or services. There is no justification for distinguishing between the two.
a) The funeral provider can readily distinguish between a preneed and an at-need customer. Thereís no reason to change the Rule based upon preneed versus at-need. The approach is essentially the same.
30. Are there widespread unfair or deceptive practices occurring with respect to the prearrangement of and prepayment for funerals by consumers? What are these practices? How could these practices be remedied? Are these remedies within the commissionís authority and jurisdiction? Would the benefits to consumers likely to result from such remedies outweigh the likely costs to funeral providers or other industry members?
The Illinois Funeral Directors Association is aware of unfair and deceptive practices regarding prearrangement and prepayment for funeral-like services and merchandise. The practices are primarily those of cemeteries. They are outrageous and should be stopped by some reasonable regulation. First, letís look at the examples.
1) A cemetery prefers not to have to trust funds for adequate perpetual care. The end result is they run short of money and have to skimp on service or dramatically raise prices. An examination of the perpetual care fund at 15% of the price of the plot or even 20% will show the fallacy of that small deposit. The only thing the cemetery can use is the interest off that deposit. Then, inflation continues to run up the cemeteryís costs. But, they can only get the interest on the amount that was originally placed in trust. Ultimately, that means that all cemeteries will have to find alternate means of providing care funds because they are not setting aside enough of the principal to accomplish that feat. We see it in Illinois every day and it is causing a great deal of problems for consumers who buy a lot, pay for the opening and closing fees and then see different forms of alternate charges, levied by the cemeteries, to help them recover costs needed to keep the grounds decent.
2) The FTC should find a way to ban what is called ďconstructive delivery.Ē Here is an example: Cemeteries love to sell vaults or outer burial containers, preneed, and then bury them on the plot site. That way they donít have to put any money into trust. It simply denies the consumer the right of getting their money back if their circumstances change and they move. If they have to have the money in trust, the consumer has a chance, even though they lose the value of the plot, to retain their other preneed payments.
Second, on this same subject, how smart is it to dig a hole and put a concrete box in it and cover it up, waiting for the person to die? Inevitably, some of those boxes get broken because of deterioration or because they stick to the mud and are broken when the tops are removed. This is ridiculous and only adds costs to the consumers.
3) You have to think about this one. Instead of selling a family the two graves and two vaults they have requested, the cemetery will encourage them to buy four plots with the right to exchange two of them for vaults. This is just another example of how cemeteries avoid trusting and the adverse impact it has on families whose circumstances will change during the course of their latter years. What happens is that when the family agrees to buy four graves with the right to trade in two for vaults, they give up all right of a refund. Under almost all state laws, they can get a refund on the merchandise, but they canít get a refund on the plots. In effect, this is a plot against the consumer.
4) Likewise, cemeteries will take a casket and place it in mausoleum in order to avoid trusting. Now anyone who knows anything about a mausoleum knows that temperatures get to 175ļ and that the casket is going to clearly not be suitable for containing the body at a visitation five or ten years later. Still, it is scheme after scheme. The Illinois Funeral Directors Association receives these calls on a regular basis. People are distraught because they canít get their money back. The reason they canít is that cemeteries have been effective in getting state laws changed to allow them to take advantage of consumers.
5) If the FTC wants to prevent actions which are unfair to consumers, they ought to prevent preneed sales in the homes of the individuals where they havenít been invited. If someone knocks on a personís door, particularly an elderly person whoís lonely, they have a 50-50 chance of making a sale. If they donít knock on the door, the consumer loses nothing. If they knock on the door, the consumer is going to lose options to change their mind. For example, some cemeteries actually place caskets and vaults in warehouses to avoid trusting, which means the consumer canít get their money back. While 30 states have 100% preneed laws, which means the people get 100% of their money back plus interest, these schemes, dreamed up by the cemeteries, prevent them from getting their money back. That should cease.
6) We believe that if a cemetery wants to put up a mausoleum, they should fund it, just like a person whoís going to build a funeral home. That isnít the way it works, though. Instead, they go out and sell mausoleum space on a preneed basis and then keep the money in trust, sometimes for years, while they decide whether or not to actually build the mausoleum. Here in Illinois there have been many instances where a cemetery has gone out, sold 50% of the planned space, started the mausoleum and then couldnít sell the rest of the space and everyone loses their money. There is no reason why consumers should be put in that situation.
The FTC alleged that cemeteries didnít need to be monitored because they didnít have any complaints. Weíve got hundreds of them. Yet, the FTC started its original funeral industry investigation with as few as 20 complaints. Thatís out of two million funerals a year. Ladies and gentlemen, it is just possible that the FTC is not needed by the funeral industry. However, if you still feel that extra desire to oversee, start with the cemeteries. They are a growing source of true fraud and misrepresentation which you simply donít find in funeral service at the funeral home level.
Thank you for your thoughtful questionnaire. We hope these responses have been helpful.