Commission Approves Filing of Joint FTC/DOJ Comments with Michigan Governor on Real Estate Services Provision; FTC Receives Two Petitions for Proposed Divestitures from SCI and Alderwoods Group

For Your Information

Commission approval of joint FTC/DOJ comments:The Commission has approved the filing of joint FTC/DOJ comments with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm regarding Michigan House Bill (HB) 4416, which is related to minimum service requirements for real estate professionals within the state. As detailed in the comments, which can be found on the FTC’s Web site as a link to this press release, HB 4416 is a revised version of 2005's HB 4849, which would have required Michigan real estate professionals to provide a specified array of services, requiring home sellers within the state to buy real estate brokerage services they may not want or need.

Like the 2005 bill, HB 4416 requires real estate professionals to provide specified services but allows consumers to waive the broker’s help in acceptance, presentation, development, and communication of offers and counteroffers; negotiations; and closings. While HB 4416 is less restrictive than the 2005 bill, the agencies’ comments state that there is still not evidence that any form of minimum-service law is needed to protect the state’s consumers. In addition, the comments address two specific concerns with the new legislation.

First, according to the FTC and DOJ, the bill contains an unnecessary and confusing provision that could require a broker acting under a service agreement to furnish, or cause to be furnished, a closing statement, as required by the state’s Administrative Code. The agencies contend that if misinterpreted, this could lead some consumers to buy brokerage services they do not want and that all brokers are not required to provide.

Second, the legislation would place restrictions on broker advertising. The FTC believes this provision could impose costs on certain non-traditional brokers, hindering their ability to compete. In addition, the agencies conclude, these advertising restrictions are not likely to provide Michigan consumers with any benefits.

The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the joint comments with Governor Granholm was 5-0. (FTC File No. V050021; the staff contact is James Cooper, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-3367.

Petitions for approval of proposed divestitures: The Commission has received a petition from Service Corporation International (SCI) and Alderwoods Group, Inc. seeking approval of a proposed divestiture related to SCI’s recent acquisition of Alderwoods. In the FTC’s consent agreement and order allowing the transaction to proceed with conditions, SCI and Alderwoods were required to divest a range of funeral home and cemetery services companies. Through this petition, a public version of which can be found on the Commission’s Web site as a link to this press release, the companies have requested approval to divest Holder Wells Funeral Home in Moss Point, Mississippi to Kent Care, LLC.

The FTC is seeking public comments on the proposed divestiture for 30 days, until July 2, 2007, after which it will decide whether to approve it. Comments should be sent to: FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20580. (FTC File No. 061-0156, Docket No. C-4174; the staff contact is Elizabeth A. Piotrowski, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-2623; see press release dated November 22, 2006.)

The Commission has received a petition seeking approval of a proposed divestiture of two funeral homes as required under an Order to Show Cause and Order Modifying Order (Modifying Order) previously issued in In re Service Corporation International (SCI), Docket No. 3869. The Modifying Order allowed SCI to foreclose on certain funeral home assets but required they be held separate and divested by a Trustee appointed by the Commission. Through this petition, a public version of which can be found on the Commission’s Web site as a link to this press release, the Trustee has requested approval to divest certain of the funeral home assets being held seperately, the McMullen and Colonial Funeral Homes, to JCAM HOLDINGS LLC, which is owned by the current management of these funeral homes.

The FTC is seeking public comments on the proposed divestiture for 30 days, until July 2, 2007, after which it will decide whether to approve it. Comments should be sent to: FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20580. (FTC Docket No. C-3869; the staff contact is Elizabeth A. Piotrowski, Bureau of Competition, 202-326-2623; see press release dated December 29, 2006.)

Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.

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