Good news? About funerals? That’s not a headline you read every day. But the results of the FTC’s latest undercover inspections to check if funeral homes are complying with the Funeral Rule yielded some positive results – and sounded cautionary notes for some members of the industry.
The Funeral Rule protects buyers when they may be at their most vulnerable. In place since 1984, the Rule requires funeral homes to provide consumers with an itemized general price list at the start of any in-person discussion about funeral arrangements. In addition, funeral homes must give people a casket price list before showing them caskets. (That provision also applies if people are thinking about buying an outer burial container – things like vaults or grave liners.) Another important protection for consumers: Funeral providers are required to answer price questions over the phone.
So what did the FTC’s undercover inspections reveal? The good news is that of the 124 funeral homes visited, 92 disclosed price information in compliance with the Funeral Rule. But that also means that 32 establishments didn’t honor the Rule’s well-settled requirements – and from the FTC's perspective that's 32 too many.
Here’s the geographic breakdown of the funeral homes that failed to make the required price list disclosure:
- Amarillo, Texas: 6 out of 19
- Baltimore, Maryland: 2 out of 19
- Dayton, Ohio: 5 out of 15
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 4 out of 18
- Monroe, Louisiana: 8 out of 17
- Palm Spring, California: 1 out of 8
- Portland, Oregon: 2 out of 14
- Southern Connecticut and Northern New Jersey: 2 out of 19
What’s the next step for those businesses? All but two of them have agreed to enter the Funeral Rule Offenders Program (FROP), a three-year compliance training program run by the National Funeral Directors Association. An alternative to litigation and the hefty civil penalties that could result, FROP includes testing and monitoring to help ensure legal compliance. Participants make a voluntary payment to the U.S. Treasury in place of a civil penalty and pay an administrative fee to the Association.
The FTC also found minor deficiencies in some funeral homes visited as part of the nine-state inspection. Those businesses will be providing evidence that they’ve corrected the problems.
Where can industry members go for more information? Complying with the Funeral Rule, available on the Business Center’s special page for the funeral industry, is a place to start. Funeral homes can order free copies from the FTC Bulk Order site. (The brochure is available in Spanish, too.) Watch this video to recap the basics.
There’s an important message for consumers, too. One of the greatest gifts you can give your family is to make decisions about funeral arrangements in advance. It spares them the stress of making those choices under the pressure of time and strong emotion. It gives them the comfort of knowing they carried out your wishes. And you get the benefit of thoughtful comparison shopping. Free resources from the FTC are available in English and Spanish. Planning Your Own Funeral can be an easy way to start that conversation with your family.