Michigan Funeral Home Settles Funeral Rule Violations; Agrees to Pay $60,000 Civil Penalty

For Your Information

A.H. Peters Funeral Home of Grosse Pointe, Inc., a Michigan- based funeral home operator, and its officers, have agreed to pay a $60,000 civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they failed to provide consumers with price lists for caskets and other funeral goods and services they offer, in violation of the FTC's Funeral Rule. The FTC also alleged that the defendants conditioned the furnishing of certain funeral goods and services upon the purchase of other funeral goods and services, also a violation of the rule. Under the proposed settlement of the charges, in addition to the $60,000 civil penalty, the defendants would be required to follow written procedures, including a training program, to ensure that their employees comply with the Funeral Rule in the future.

A.H. Peters Funeral Home operates funeral homes in Warren, Michigan, as well as in Grosse Pointe. The FTC's complaint also names Roy A. Peters as President, and David L. Peters as Vice President, of the funeral home.

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. Other price lists also are required under the rule, as is an itemized statement of the goods and services consumers have selected, so they can be sure they're getting what they requested. And the rule 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.

In its complaint against the Peters defendants, the FTC alleged that they violated the Funeral Rule by failing to give consumers: the required general price list; the required casket and outer burial container price lists; and an itemized written statement of selected items. In addition, the Commission charged that the defendants conditioned the provision of certain funeral goods or services upon the purchase of others.

Under the proposed settlement of these charges, the defendants would pay the $60,000 civil penalty and be prohibited from violating the Funeral Rule in the future. In addition, for five years, the defendants would be required to give each employee who sells funeral goods and services a copy of the consent decree and the FTC's Business Guide, "Complying with the Funeral Rule," and to maintain records showing compliance with the terms of the settlement.

The Commission vote to authorize the filing of the complaint and proposed settlement was 5-0. The complaint and proposed consent decree were filed on Dec. 21, 1995 by the Department of Justice on behalf of the FTC in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

NOTE: This consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendants of a law violation. Consent decrees have the force of law when signed by the judge.

The FTC has a free 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 202-326-2502. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhonerecording 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 3089)
(Civil Action No. 95-76163-DT)