W.W. Chambers Co., Inc., a Maryland-based funeral home operator, and its principals have been charged by the Federal Trade Commission with violating the FTC's Funeral Rule on numerous occasions by failing to provide consumers with written itemized price lists and other information. The FTC has asked the court to permanently prohibit the defendants from violating the Funeral Rule in the future and to order them to pay a civil penalty for each violation of the rule.
The FTC's complaint, which details the charges, also names William W. Chambers, President; William W. Chambers, III, Vice President; and Thomas S. Chambers, Vice President. W.W. Chambers is based in Silver Spring and has three locations in Maryland.
The FTC's Funeral Rule, adopted in 1984, is designed to help consumers obtain price and other information about funeral services, and to make it easier for them to compare prices and to purchase only the goods and services they want. The rule requires a funeral home to give consumers who inquire in person about its services their own copy of a general price list. The list must include prices as well as additional information such as a dis- closure that a casket is not required for direct cremation. The rule also prohibits a funeral provider from requiring consumers to purchase unwanted goods or services as a condition for obtaining goods or services that they do want.
According to the complaint, the defendants failed to provide a general price list to some consumers. The company also allegedly failed to provide consumers with a casket price list or an outer burial container price list, and often failed to provide customers with an itemized written statement of the funeral goods and services they had selected at the conclusion of the discussion of funeral arrangements. In addition, the FTC alleged that the itemized statements, when provided, did not include mandated disclosures explaining any charges for embalming and for any items required by law, a cemetery or a crematory. The defendants also allegedly failed to include certain required disclosures on the price lists they did provide. For example, the general price list should have included a statement that consumers can choose only the items they want. The outer burial container price list should have included a statement to the effect that few areas of the country mandate such containers.
The complaint was filed at the FTC's request by the Department of Justice in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, in Baltimore on June 6. A hearing on the charges will be scheduled shortly.
The Commission vote to authorize filing of the complaint was 5-0.
NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant actually has violated the law. The case will be decided by the court.
The FTC has a brochure titled "Funerals: A Consumer Guide," which describes the Funeral Rule and answers common questions about planning a funeral.
Copies of the complaint, as well as the consumer brochure, are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
(FTC File No. 942 3095)
(Civil Action No. unavailable at press time)