W.W. Chambers Co., Inc., a Maryland-based funeral home operator, and its principals have paid a $10,000 civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that they failed to provide consumers with written itemized price lists and other information, in violation of the FTC's Funeral Rule. The rule is designed to ensure that consumers purchase only the goods and services they want or need. Under the terms of the settlement, the defendants have agreed to pay the civil penalty and 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 an itemized general price list that they can use to comparison shop. The FTC's rule also makes clear that consumers do not have to buy a package deal. 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.
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.
In June 1995, the FTC filed its complaint detailing the charges against William W. Chambers, President; William W. Chambers, III, Vice President; and Thomas S. Chambers, Vice President. W.W. Chambers is based in Silver Spring and has three locations in Maryland. The FTC alleged that the defendants violated the Funeral Rule by failing to give consumers a general price list containing all of the prices and disclosures required by the Rule, and by failing to give consumers an itemized written statement of funeral goods and services selected at the conclusion of the discussion of funeral arrangements, in the manner required by the Rule.
In settlement of these charges, the defendants paid the $10,000 civil penalty within five days after the settlement was approved by the court, and are prohibited from violating the Funeral Rule in the future. In addition, the defendants are 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 10 years, defendants William W. Chambers, William W. Chambers III, and Thomas S. Chambers must notify the FTC about their affiliation with any new business or employment in which their duties and responsibilities involve the sale of funeral goods and services.
The Commission vote to authorize filing of the consent decree was 5-0. It was filed on June 25, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, in Baltimore, by the Department of Justice at the FTC's request. The judge approved the consent decree on July 1.
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, the proposed consent decree, as well as other documents 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 Matter No. X950070)
(Civil Action No. AW-95-1683)