The Federal Trade Commission has told the Senate Special Committee on Aging that a new industry-sponsored education and certification program in the funeral industry may signal a "new attitude of cooperation on the part of industry" and may help increase compliance with the FTC’s Funeral Rule. The comments were part of testimony submitted to the Committee on the FTC’s law enforcement activities regarding the funeral industry.
The FTC Rule requires funeral providers to give consumers itemized price information for funeral goods and services; to disclose that consumers can purchase individual items rather than "packages;" and to disclose that certain items -- embalming, for example -- may not be required by law and may be waived.
To increase compliance with the Funeral Rule, in late 1994 the agency instituted industry "sweeps" -- simultaneous law enforcement actions targeting numerous industry members in a particular region, state or city. The four initial sweeps, involving test shopping of 89 funeral homes, resulted in 20 FTC enforcement actions -- nearly half as many in two years as had been brought in the previous ten years, the FTC testimony noted. The sweep served as a stimulus for creation of the Funeral Rule Offenders Program (FROP), an education, training and certification initiative of the National Funeral Directors Association. Early indications are that the FROP program is increasing compliance with the Rule.
The testimony also noted that in the last two years, the Commission has taken law enforcement actions in four merger cases that required divestitures of funeral homes that would have lessened competition and could have raised prices for consumers.
Copies of the FTC testimony 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 news as it is announced, call the FTC 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
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(FTC File No. P964101)