The Federal Trade Commission is sending warning letters to 39 funeral homes across the country after investigators conducted the agency’s first undercover phone sweep and discovered several violations of the Funeral Rule, including funeral homes that failed to provide accurate pricing information or failed to give out price information entirely.
The Funeral Rule gives consumers important rights when making funeral arrangements, including requiring that funeral homes must “tell persons who ask by telephone about the funeral provider’s offerings or prices any accurate information from [their] price lists…. and any other readily available information that reasonably answers the question[s].”
Throughout 2023, investigators and other staff from the FTC’s East Central Region, Northwest Region, Southeast Region, Southwest Region, Midwest Region, Western Region – Los Angeles, Western Region – San Francisco offices and the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Division of Marketing Practices placed undercover calls to more than 250 funeral homes from across the country to try to obtain price information. Staff determined that 39 funeral homes violated the Funeral Rule on these calls.
- On 38 of the calls, funeral homes either refused to answer questions about pricing at all or provided inconsistent pricing for identical services.
- On one of those calls, the funeral home also misrepresented that the local health code required remains to be embalmed if more than a certain number of people wanted to view the remains when it was not actually required by the local health code. Embalming is a process of preserving a body after death. Most states do not require a body to be embalmed, and the few states that require embalming only do so in limited circumstances, such as if refrigeration is not available.
- On another call, the funeral home promised to send a General Price List, which is required to include important disclosures and itemized services, but instead provided a list of package prices that did not meet the Funeral Rule requirements for a General Price List.
The agency sent letters to the following funeral homes: A Psalm of Life, A. J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Directors, Airport Mortuary & Shipping Services, Benito & Azzaro Gardens Chapel, Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors, Burch-Messier Walnut Street Chapel, Burns Funeral Home Inc., Byles-MacDougall Funeral Home, Dae Han Mortuary, Davis Funeral Home, Edward Hugh McBride Funeral Home, Ferdinand Funeral Homes & Crematory, SCI Texas Funeral Services, L.L.C. d/b/a Forest Park Westheimer Funeral Home & Cemetery, Gresser Funeral Home, Heritage Funeral Service and Crematory, Joe Jackson Heights Funeral Chapel, Kearns Memorial LLC, King of Prussia Crematory d/b/a Bacchi Funeral Home & Crematory, Laurel Hill Funeral Home, Lester C. Litesey Funeral Home, Lynch Funeral Home Inc., McCormick and Son Mortuary, McWhite’s Funeral Home, Messinger Indian School Mortuary, Monti Rago Funeral Home, Inc., Morris Funerals & Cremation Services, L.L.C., Mountain View Funeral Home and Crematory, Nieto Funerals & Cremations, O.H. Pye, III Funeral Home, Plummer Funeral Home, Ruby Memorial, Shadow Mountain Mortuary, Staples Funeral Home & Cremation Care, Stephens Funeral Home, Todd Memorial Chapel, Walton's Funerals & Cremation - Chapel of the Valley, West-Hurtt Funeral Home, Wimberg Funeral Home, and Woyasz & Son Funeral Service.
The letters reiterate that the Funeral Rule requires funeral providers to disclose prices and other information to people arranging funerals, including itemized price information over the telephone, and asks the funeral homes to take prompt remedial action to make sure they are no longer violating the Funeral Rule. Failure to comply with the rule result in penalties of up to $51,744 per violation.
To promote compliance with the Funeral Rule, the FTC offers a comprehensive business guide: Complying with the Funeral Rule. The FTC also provides consumer guides, in English and Spanish, to help inform consumers about their rights under the Funeral Rule, including Shopping for Funeral Services by Phone or Online, and Shopping for Funeral Services.
The staff on this matter are Melissa Dickey, Rebecca Plett, Sammi Nachtigal, and Luis Gallegos from the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. Learn more about consumer topics at consumer.ftc.gov, or report fraud, scams, and bad business practices at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Follow the FTC on social media, read consumer alerts and the business blog, and sign up to get the latest FTC news and alerts.