As part of an ongoing nationwide law enforcement program to identify funeral homes that fail to comply with the Funeral Rule, the Federal Trade Commission today announced the results of a sweep of sixty-seven funeral homes in metropolitan Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The FTC's Cleveland Regional Office coordinated the sweep with the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Commission staff acted as test shoppers, as did investigators from the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Bucks County Consumer Protection Office, Delaware County Consumer Affairs Office and volunteer members of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). The shoppers visited funeral homes in Philadelphia, Bucks and Delaware counties to determine whether the homes provide consumers with a copy of an itemized general price list and show consumers itemized casket and outer burial container price lists, key requirements of the FTC's Funeral Rule. Nineteen of the 67 funeral homes visited were considered to be in violation of the FTC's Funeral Rule.
All nineteen funeral homes will be given an opportunity to resolve the possible law violations by participating in the Funeral Rule Offenders Programs ("FROP") in lieu of paying a civil penalty and the filing of a complaint and consent decree in Federal District Court.
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 have failed to give test shoppers the itemized price lists required by the Rule are given the option of entering the FROP program rather than face possible formal legal action and the risk of paying a civil penalty. If they choose FROP, they make a voluntary payment to the U.S. Treasury or state Attorney General and enroll 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 overall that nationwide compliance among funeral homes has increased since 1994. Nearly 90 percent of funeral homes subjected to test shopping in 1996 complied with the key general price list requirement. Specifically, in 1996, the FTC and state Attorney General's offices test-shopped 309 homes in seven states, 35 of which were found in violation of the rule, with 30 funeral homes voluntarily joining FROP. The sweeps method of enforcement of the Funeral Rule is ongoing and results from the 1997 nationwide sweeps will be finalized and announced 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. A free FTC handbook entitled "Complying with the Funeral Rule," provides information to funeral providers on complying with the FTC's Funeral Rule.
Copies are available from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-3128; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's News phone 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
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Virginia A. Davidson or Larry Greene
Cleveland Regional Office
1111 Superior, Suite 200
Cleveland, Ohio 44114
216-263-3404 or 216-263-3406
Office of Attorney General
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
16th Floor, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120