The Federal Trade Commission staff and the Connecticut Departments of Health and Consumer Protection today announced the results of a sweep of 30 funeral homes in the greater metropolitan New York City and Hartford areas to test for compliance with the FTC's Funeral Rule. Four of those homes appeared to be in violation of the Rule. The sweep -- part of an ongoing nationwide law enforcement program -- was coordinated by the FTC's Northeast Regional Office. The FTC test shoppers visited the funeral homes to determine whether the homes provided consumers with a copy of an itemized general price list and showed consumers itemized casket and outer burial container price lists, key requirements of the Funeral Rule. (The Funeral Rule is designed to ensure that consumers making funeral arrangements receive price lists and are informed that they can purchase only the goods and services they want or need.)
The four funeral homes considered to be in violation of the Funeral Rule have been given the opportunity to resolve the possible law violations by participating in the Funeral Rule Offenders Program ("FROP"), in lieu of possibly paying a civil penalty and the filing of a complaint and consent decree in federal district court.
The FROP program, announced in January 1996, was developed as a joint effort between the National Funeral Directors Association ("NFDA") and the FTC to boost funeral industry compliance with the Funeral Rule. Under the program, funeral homes that have failed to give test shoppers the itemized price lists required by the Rule are given the option of entering the FROP program rather than face possible formal legal action. If they choose FROP, they make a voluntary payment and enroll in a compliance program, administered by the NFDA, which includes a review of price lists, training on compliance and follow-up testing and certification.
The Funeral Rule, promulgated by the Commission in 1984, was revised in 1994. One of the key requirements of the rule is that funeral homes must give consumers a copy of an itemized general price list, which they can use to comparison shop, at the beginning of any discussion regarding funeral arrangements, goods, services or prices. The general price list must contain a number of disclosures and other information including, for example, that embalming is not necessarily required by law. The FTC's rule also makes clear that consumers do not have to buy a package funeral, but instead, may pick and choose the goods and services they want.
A free FTC brochure for consumers, titled "Funerals: A Consumer Guide," provides additional information about consumers' rights and legal requirements when planning funerals. A free FTC handbook titled, "Complying with the Funeral Rule," provides information to funeral providers on complying with the FTC's Funeral Rule.
Copies of the news release and the brochures are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
Office of Public Affairs
CT Department of Health
CT Department of Consumer Protection
Barbara Anthony or Michael W. Marino
Northeast Region - New York