As part of ongoing nationwide law enforcement actions against funeral homes that fail to comply with the Funeral Rule, the Federal Trade Commission today announced the results of a funeral home "sweep" in the District of Columbia. Using test shoppers, the FTC and the Office of the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia visited 30 area funeral homes to determine whether the homes provide consumers with a copy of an itemized general price list, a key requirement of the FTC's Funeral Rule. Four of the funeral homes that the FTC and the Office of the Corporation Counsel visited appeared to be in violation of the FTC's Funeral Rule. All four funeral homes have agreed to enroll in the new Funeral Rules Offenders Program ("FROP").
The FROP program, announced in January 1996, was developed as a joint effort between the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) and the FTC to boost funeral industry compliance with the FTC's Funeral Rule. Under the program, funeral homes that appear to be in violation of the Rule -- and that choose to enter the FROP program rather than face possible formal legal action -- make a voluntary payment to the U.S. Treasury. The payment is lower than the civil penalty the FTC might obtain in a formal law enforcement action for Funeral Rule violations, which can amount to up to $11,000 per violation. In addition, members of FROP participate in a compliance program, administered by the NFDA, which includes a review of price lists, training on compliance and follow-up testing and certification.
Since the inception of FROP, funeral home "sweeps" have demonstrated that compliance among funeral homes has increased and is nearing 90% compliance. Specifically, the FTC has test-shopped 269 homes, 30 of which were found in violation of the rule, with 26 funeral homes voluntarily joining FROP. These previous sweeps netted ten violators in Massachusetts, five violators in Ohio; one violator in Colorado; and ten violators in the Chicago area. More sweeps are expected to be launched soon.
The FTC's Funeral Rule, promulgated by the Commission in 1984, was revised in 1994. One of the key requirements of the rule is that funeral homes must give consumers a copy of an itemized general price list, which they can use to comparison shop, at the beginning of any discussion regarding funeral arrangements, goods, services or prices. The general price list must contain a number of disclosures and other information -- including, for example, that embalming is not necessarily required by law. The FTC's rule also makes clear that consumers do not have to buy a package funeral, but instead, may pick and choose the goods and services they want.
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 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
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