The Federal Trade Commission staff today announced the results of a sweep of 29 funeral homes in the greater New York City metropolitan area, including Kings County in New York and Fairfield County in Connecticut, to test compliance with the FTC’s Funeral Rule. Twelve of those homes appeared to be in violation of the Rule. The FTC’s Northeast Region Office coordinated the sweep as part of an ongoing nationwide law enforcement program. The FTC test shoppers visited the funeral homes to determine whether the homes comply with key provisions of the FTC’s Funeral Rule – requirements that consumers be given a copy of an itemized general price list and that they be shown itemized price lists for caskets and outer burial containers in a timely manner. (The Funeral Rule is designed to ensure that consumers making funeral arrangements receive price lists and are informed that they can purchase only the goods and services they want or need.)
The 12 funeral homes considered to be in violation of the Funeral Rule have been given the opportunity to resolve the possible law violations by participating in the Funeral Rule Offenders Program (FROP), in lieu of possible formal legal action which could result in an injunction and civil penalties.
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 Funeral Rule. Under the program, funeral homes that have failed to give test shoppers the itemized price lists in the time and manner required by the Rule are given theoption of entering the FROP program rather than face possible formal legal action. If they choose FROP, they make a voluntary payment to the U.S. Treasury in lieu of civil penalties, and enroll in a program, administered by the NFDA, which includes a review of price lists, compliance training, and follow-up testing and certification.
The 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 titled, “Complying with the Funeral Rule,” provides information to funeral providers on complying with the FTC’s Funeral Rule.
Copies of the news release and consumer brochures are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1 877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
Barbara Anthony or Robert Cancellaro
Northeast Region - New York