From: Dave Greenlee <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, Jun 1, 1999 12:17 AM
Subject: 16 CFR Part 453
I am a consumer and would like to present comments on the Funeral Rule pursuant to your notice published in the Federal Register.
Though I am not a member of FAMSA or any local Memorial Society, I nonetheless fully support the changes suggested by FAMSA as outlined in the Federal Register notice. I would, moreover, suggest additional changes not included in the FAMSA comment.
Figures presented by FAMSA and others demonstrate that there are clearly far more funeral homes in America than could be supported by a truly competitive market. That is, if prices were established by supply and demand alone, the resulting profit margins would not support the number of funeral homes which now exist. The continued existence of this number of homes suggests more than anything else that the market is not competitive. The average consumer, consumed by grief or trying to do "what's right," does not ordinarily shop competitively for funeral services and goods, but takes the first services he or she can find. One only needs to read the accounts of the funerals of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy in Jessica Mitford's "The American Way of Death Revisited" to realize that even the most sophisticated businessman will succumb to these emotions when faced with the death of a friend or family member. The so-called grief therapy offered by the funeral homes in the "traditional" open-coffin funeral , which is wholly unsupported by scientific study outside the funeral journals, is of a "my way or no way" nature and is coldly calculated to obtain maximum profits from consumer vulnerability. The only way to protect the consumer in these circumstances is to require the funeral homes to disclose that their way is NOT the only way.
First, the Funeral Rule must be retained.
Second, the changes suggested by FAMSA should be adopted.
Third, 16 CFR Sec. 453.2(b)(4)(ii) should be revised to limit the effect of the phrase "if offered for sale" at the end of the opening clause. A funeral provider should not be permitted to delete the references to direct cremation and immediate burial on the General Price List if those services are not offered by the provider. At the very least they should be retained and marked "not offered". Better yet, they should not only be retained, but should in all cases be accompanied by the definition of the terms "direct cremation" and "immediate burial" as defined in the Funeral Rule. It would appear that many people are not even aware that such services are still possible, the funeral industry having largely succeeded in making the open-coffin funeral "traditional". To require the industry to list these options on the GPL even if they are not offered by the provider may at least give some consumers a reason to believe that such services have not vanished from the face of the Earth. Finally in this regard, let me have the temerity to suggest that not only should the items be retained and explained, but if they are to be endorsed "not offered" that a line must be added saying "Information regarding the availability of direct cremation / immediate burial in this area may be obtained by calling the Funeral and Memorial Societies of America at 1-802-482-3437 or consulting their Internet site at http://www.funerals.org/famsa ."
If FAMSA's request for an itemization of private viewing without embalming is granted, that too should be required on the GPL even if that service is not offered by the provider.
Fourth, an additional disclosure should be required on the GPL stating that "The casket or other container for burial or cremation, urn or other container for cremated remains, clothing for the deceased, vehicles for transportation of the deceased or funeral attendees, and any other funeral goods may be supplied by the purchaser. No extra charge will be made by us for the use or handling of such goods." In connection with such handling fees, some limitation must be placed upon the industry's use of discounted bundles of services to avoid the Rule's antibundling rules.
Fifth, a disclosure should be placed at the foot of the Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected that "Important disclosures required by law are made on the General Price List [and name the other price lists required by the Rule, as used by the funeral supplier]. If you have not done so already, you should read that list / those lists carefully before signing this statement or any other contract."
Sixth, the Casket Price List (or the GPL if no CPL is used) should be required to state: "No casket, vault, grave liner or other container can protect remains from gravesite substances over a long or indefinite period of time. A sealed or gasketed casket will, in fact, accelerate the decomposition of the remains, whether buried or placed in a mausoleum." Silence is insufficient to overcome the implications of the use of so-called protective caskets and mausoleum vaults. If the truth is known, many consumers will choose a less costly coffin rather than one which offers a false appearance of protection.
Seventh, since the body is frequently in the funeral provider's hands before the consumer can gain the emotional calm to consider the GPL and other price lists, the Commission should consider investigating the industry's practices in regard to the prices and costs charged when the consumer decides that he would prefer that a provider different from the provider who removed the remains from the place of death. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the fees charged by the initial provider can be exorbitant and that refusal to transfer the remains may occur until the initial provider is paid, especially if the replacement provider is a low-cost provider.
Thank you for considering my suggestions.