Lewis & Ribbs Mortuary, Inc., a San Francisco-based funeral home operator, and its owner Lorenzo J. Lewis, have agreed to pay a $20,000 civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they failed to give consumers general price lists and statements itemizing their purchases in the form required under the FTC's Funeral Rule. The rule is designed to ensure that consumers can purchase only the goods and services they want or need. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, in addition to paying the civil penalty, the defendants have agreed to comply with the Funeral Rule in the future.
The FTC's Funeral Rule was promulgated by the Commission in 1984 and revised in 1994. The rule requires funeral homes to give consumers who visit a funeral home a copy of a general price list that they can use to comparison shop. The general price list contains a number of disclosures and other information. The FTC's rule also makes clear that consumers do not have to buy a package deal. And it requires funeral homes to give consumers itemized lists of the goods and services they have selected, so that they can be sure they are paying only for the items chosen or that state law requires.
In its complaint detailing the charges , the FTC alleged that Lewis & Ribbs and its owner violated the Funeral Rule by failing to give consumers a general price list containing all of the prices and disclosures required by the Rule. In addition, the complaint alleges that Lewis & Ribbs failed to give consumers an itemized written statement of funeral goods and services selected, which itemizes purchases and gives consumers additional buying information, in the manner required by the Rule.
Under the proposed settlement of these charges, the defendants would pay the $20,000 civil penalty within five days after the settlement is approved by the court, and would be prohibited from violating the Funeral Rule in the future. In addition, the defendants would be required to give each employee who sells funeral goods and services a copy of the consent decree and, for a period of five years, to maintain records showing compliance with the terms of the settlement. Also, for ten years, defendant Lorenzo Lewis, must notify the FTC about his affiliation with any new business or employment in which his duties and responsibilities involve the sale of funeral goods and services.
The Commission vote to authorize filing of the complaint and consent decree was 5-0. They were filed on June 7, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in San Francisco, by the Department of Justice at the FTC's request. The judge approved the consent decree on June 12.
A free FTC brochure for consumers, titled "Funerals: A Consumer Guide," provides additional information about consumers' rights and legal requirements when planning funerals. Copies are available at the address below.
NOTE: A consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute admissions by the defendants of law violations. Consent decrees have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the FTC consumer brochure and the complaint and proposed consent decree in this case 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 3296)
(Civil Action No. 96-2110 (SI))
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