Chapel of the Chimes, a San Francisco Bay-area funeral home chain, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it failed to provide consumers with a printed price list and other required pre-purchase information in the form required under the Commission's Funeral Rule. The FTC also alleged that Chapel of the Chimes conditioned the purchase of certain funeral goods or services on the purchase of other funeral goods and services. Under the proposed settlement, Chapel of the Chimes would pay a $70,000 civil penalty and be prohibited from violating the Funeral Rule in the future.
Chapel of the Chimes is located in Hayward, California.
The FTC's Funeral Rule, adopted in 1984, is designed to help consumers obtain price and other information about funeral services, and to make it easier for them to compare prices and to purchase only the goods and services they want. The rule requires a funeral home to give consumers who inquire in person about its services their own copy of a general price list. The list must include prices as well as additional information such as, a disclosure that a casket is not required for direct cremation. The rule also prohibits a funeral provider from requiring consumers to purchase unwanted goods or services as a condition for obtaining goods or services that they do want.
The FTC's complaint alleged that Chapel of the Chimes violated the rule by failing to: provide the required price information to consumers; provide an itemized written statement; and include on the statement certain itemized written disclosures required by the rule. The Commission also charged that the funeral home chain conditioned the provision of certain funeral goods and services upon the purchase of others.
The FTC also alleged that Chapel of the Chimes induced consumers to buy cemetery plots by making two misrepresentations: that the consumers could purchase the plot at a discount, or that there would be an imminent price increase. In fact, Chapel of the Chimes did not regularly sell the plots at prices higher than the discount price, and there was not a good faith intent to imminently increase the prices, the FTC alleged.
Under the proposed settlement of these charges, Chapel of the Chimes would pay the $70,000 civil penalty and, for five years, be required to maintain records showing compliance with the terms in the consent decree, among other things.
The complaint and proposed consent decree were filed today by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco. The Commission vote to authorize the filing of the complaint and proposed settlement was 5-0.
NOTE: This consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Consent decrees have the force of law when signed by the judge.
The FTC has a brochure titled "Funerals: A Consumer Guide," which describes the Funeral Rule and answers common questions about planning a funeral.
Copies of the complaint, proposed consent decree, and the consumer brochure are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC File No. 942 3031)
(Civil Action No. C-95-2628 DLJ)