Federal Trade Commission investigators, working undercover in 11 states, found failures to disclose pricing information required by the FTC’s Funeral Rule in 29 of the 134 funeral homes they visited during 2017.
The FTC conducts undercover inspections to monitor funeral homes’ compliance with the Funeral Rule. The Rule gives consumers important rights when making funeral arrangements. For example, funeral homes must provide consumers with an itemized general price list at the start of an in-person discussion of funeral arrangements, a casket price list before consumers view any caskets, and an outer burial container price list before they view grave liners or vaults. The Rule also prohibits funeral homes from requiring consumers to buy any item, such as a casket, as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service. By requiring the provision of itemized prices, the Funeral Rule enables consumers to compare prices and buy only the goods and services they want.
Funeral homes that violate the price list disclosure requirements for the first time can enter the Funeral Rule Offender’s Program (FROP), a training program run by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) designed to increase compliance with the Rule. All the homes found in violation have chosen to enter the FROP rather than subject themselves to the possibility of an FTC enforcement action seeking civil penalties, which can be as high as $40,654 per violation. The FROP provides participants with a legal review of the price disclosures required by the Rule, and ongoing training, testing and monitoring for compliance. Funeral homes that participate in the program make a voluntary payment to the U.S. Treasury in place of a civil penalty, and pay annual administrative fees to the NFDA.
The results of the FTC 2017 undercover inspections for price list disclosures by region are as follows:
- In Ft. Wayne, Indiana, none of the 19 funeral homes inspected failed to comply with a price list disclosure requirement.
- In Southern Fairfield County in Connecticut, Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York, and Southern New Jersey, none of the 12 funeral homes inspected in 2016-17 failed to comply with a price list disclosure requirement.
- In Tucson, Arizona, one of the 11 funeral homes inspected failed to comply with a price list disclosure requirement.
- In Boise, Idaho, two of the 14 funeral homes inspected failed to comply with a price list disclosure requirement.
- In Hagerstown, Maryland and Winchester, West Virginia, three of 15 funeral homes inspected failed to comply with a price list disclosure requirement.
- In Tulsa, Oklahoma, four of the 20 funeral homes inspected failed to comply with a price list disclosure requirement.
- In Augusta, Georgia, five of the 13 funeral homes inspected failed to comply with a price list disclosure requirement.
- In Lansing, Michigan, seven of the 15 funeral homes inspected failed to comply with a price list disclosure requirement.
- In Odessa and Midland, Texas, seven of the 15 funeral homes inspected failed to comply with a price list disclosure requirement.
In addition, the FTC identified a number of funeral homes, within the tested areas, with only minor compliance deficiencies. In such cases, the FTC requires the funeral home to provide evidence that it has corrected the problems.
Since the FROP began in 1996, the FTC has inspected nearly 3,200 funeral homes and found 559 homes with violations that required referral to FROP. This year, the FTC wishes to thank Indiana Attorney General Curtis T. Hill, Jr., for the valuable assistance provided by his office.
The FTC educates consumers in English and Spanish about their rights under the Funeral Rule, and provides guidance to businesses in how to comply. For more information, read Shopping for Funeral Services, Paying Final Respects, Your Rights When Buying Funeral Goods and Services, and Complying with the Funeral Rule.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.