For grieving consumers who have to make funeral or cremation arrangements for loved ones in other parts of the country, the internet can ease the burden of long-distance logistics – but not if companies violate the law. Last year, the Department of Justice filed suit on the FTC’s behalf, charging that Legacy Cremation Services, owner Anthony Joseph Damiano, and related companies targeted the bereaved with practices that violated the FTC Act and the Funeral Rule, including by falsely claiming to be local providers and by charging more than advertised prices. If people balked at the bait-and-switch, the FTC says the defendants sometimes employed a particularly pernicious tactic: a threat to withhold the loved one’s remains until people knuckled under and paid up. A settlement in the case imposes a $275,000 civil penalty and requires the defendants to clearly disclose key facts on their website.
According to the complaint, when consumers searched online for cremation providers in a particular locale, the defendants’ sites led them to believe they were dealing with a business in that city or town. It was a false impression the FTC says the defendants didn’t correct when people contacted them. What’s more, the defendants failed to reveal that a third-party company – sometimes located hours away from the loved one – would actually provide the services. The complaint also alleges that the defendants advertised low prices they didn’t honor and, in some cases, retaliated when consumers complained by making those threats to withhold the loved one’s remains.
In addition to the civil penalty, the order includes provisions that protect grieving consumers when making major financial decisions associated with funerals or cremation.
First, in additional to the Funeral Rule’s existing requirement to promptly disclose written general price information during any in-person meeting or orally by phone, the order in this case goes further. It also requires the defendants to post key price information on their websites.
Second, the defendants must clearly disclose on their websites their actual physical location and a notice when funeral goods or services will be provided by a third-party company they don’t own.
Third, the order requires the defendants to affirmatively disclose to consumers the name, address, and contact information of any third-party provider that will provide funeral goods or services immediately upon selection of the provider. Another important provision: an express ban on withholding information about the location of the deceased and threats not to return the remains.
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Informative post! I have bookmarked this link for the future blogs.
It’s really great. Thank you for providing a quality article.
As the FTC settlement requires, funeral homes must make certain disclosures available to the public through their websites, so thank you for bringing this issue to light. It's very important to be open and available to customers at this time. Your story demonstrates the value of being transparent about funeral costs, alternatives, and details. This dedication to openness eventually gives people the ability to make educated choices for themselves and their families. I appreciate you providing this valuable advice.