A New York funeral home and its funeral director/owner agreed to pay a $32,000 civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges for violating the agency’s Funeral Rule, which requires funeral providers to provide information consumers need to compare prices and buy only the funeral services and goods they want.
In May 2012, at the FTC’s request, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York charged Harrison Funeral Home Inc. in Harrison, N.Y., and John Balsamo with allegedly failing to provide consumers with an itemized general price list at the beginning of any in person discussion about funeral arrangements; a casket price list at the beginning of any discussion about caskets; and an outer burial container price list at the beginning of any discussion about outer burial containers, as required by the Funeral Rule. An amended complaint was filed in October 2012. The amended complaint was based on inspections by FTC staff posing as consumers seeking to make funeral arrangements.
The FTC conducts undercover inspections every year to ensure funeral homes are complying with the Funeral Rule, which gives consumers important rights when making funeral arrangements. The Rule, issued in 1984, requires funeral homes to provide consumers with itemized price lists at the start of any in-person discussions of funeral arrangements, caskets, and/or outer burial containers. The Rule also requires funeral homes to provide price information by telephone on request. It also prohibits funeral homes from requiring consumers to buy any item, such as a casket, as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service.
The consent decree requires the defendants to pay a $32,000 civil penalty, and permanently prohibits them from violating the Funeral Rule.
The Commission vote to approve the proposed consent judgment was 4-0. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed it on behalf of the Commission in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on November 27, 2013. The judgment was entered by the court on January 2, 2014.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
Office of Public Affairs
Robin E. Eichen,
FTC Northeast Region