The Federal Trade Commission today announced that in 2007, law enforcement sweeps of 174 funeral homes in nine states found significant violations of the FTC’s Funeral Rule at 26 funeral homes and minor compliance deficiencies at 66 others.
“Consumers making funeral arrangements are entitled to price information by phone and a written price list at the funeral home,” said Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “To ensure compliance, the FTC will keep making unannounced visits to funeral homes throughout the country.”
FTC inspections during 2007 revealed a mixed compliance record:
When investigators find significant Rule violations, the FTC gives first offenders the option of entering the Funeral Rule Offenders Program (FROP) as an alternative to the prospect of an FTC lawsuit that could lead to a court order and civil penalties. With minor compliance deficiencies, the funeral home receives a notice requiring it to provide evidence that it has corrected the problem.
The FROP program is a three-year compliance training and monitoring program run by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). Funeral homes that participate in the program must make a voluntary payment to the U.S. Treasury in place of a civil penalty, and pay annual administrative fees to the NFDA. They receive compliance training, legal review of price list disclosures required by the Funeral Rule, and regular testing and compliance monitoring.
The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to give consumers an itemized General Price List (GPL) at the start of a visit to the home to make funeral arrangements, and a Casket Price List before they view caskets. The Rule also prohibits funeral homes from requiring consumers to buy any item (e.g., a casket) as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service. By requiring itemized prices, the Rule gives consumers the ability to compare prices among funeral homes and buy only the goods and services they want.
Since the FROP program began in 1996, the FTC has inspected 2,059 funeral homes and referred 286 homes to the FROP program. In conducting these enforcement sweeps, the agency has benefitted from the assistance of several state attorneys general and the AARP. This year, the FTC wishes to thank Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett and his Pittsburgh office staff for their invaluable help.
In addition to its law enforcement efforts, the FTC works to educate consumers about their rights under the Funeral Rule, and provides guidance to businesses in how to comply. This year, the agency responded to requests for 129,000 copies (in English and Spanish) of three of these publications, “Paying Final Respects: Your Rights When Buying Funeral Goods & Services,” “Funerals: A Consumer Guide,” and “Complying with the Funeral Rule.” Consumers also have accessed these publications more than 134,000 times during 2007 from the FTC’s Web site, www.ftc.gov.
The FTC works for the consumer 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, click http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.shtm or call 1-877-382-4357. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. For free information on a variety of consumer topics, click http://ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm.