Will Not Adopt Rules to Block Retail Casket Sales
Missouri funeral regulators have agreed to settle antitrust charges by the Federal Trade Commission, affirming that they will not prohibit or discourage the sale or rental of caskets, services, or other funeral merchandise by persons not licensed as funeral directors.
According to a draft FTC complaint, the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors illegally restrained competition by defining the practice of funeral directing to include selling funeral merchandise to consumers on an at-need basis. The six-member Board, which included five funeral directors, ended the restriction last year. Under the settlement, the Board will not adopt such anticompetitive regulations in the future.
According to the complaint, the Board’s regulation deterred competitive entry in the retail sale of caskets because only licensed funeral directors could sell caskets to consumers on an at-need basis. The regulation discouraged non-licensed persons from selling caskets, deprived consumers of the benefits of price competition among casket retailers, and reduced consumer choice in selecting caskets, the complaint alleges, all in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.
Under the proposed settlement, the Board must include in its newsletter and Web site the consent order and a statement that its rules and regulations “do not prohibit persons not licensed as funeral directors or embalmers from selling caskets, burial receptacles or other funeral merchandise to the public in the State of Missouri.” Also, in half-page ads in Missouri Funeral Director’s Association Magazine, the Board must announce the agreement, including a statement that, “Persons may offer for retail sale caskets and other funeral merchandise to customers in Missouri without obtaining a license from the Board.”
The Commission vote to approve the consent order was 5-0. The order will be subject to public comment for 30 days, until April 9, 2007, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be sent to: FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.
A new FTC brochure, “Paying Final Respects: Your Rights When Buying Funeral Goods & Services,” also available in Spanish, includes information about cost considerations consumers should know about, resources for planning your own funeral, and the FTC’s Funeral Rule. It is available at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro26.htm.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.
Copies of the complaint, consent order, and an analysis to aid public comment 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. The FTC’s Bureau of Competition seeks to prevent business practices that restrain competition. The Bureau carries out its mission by investigating alleged law violations and, when appropriate, recommending that the Commission take formal enforcement action. To notify the Bureau concerning particular business practices, call or write the Office of Policy and Coordination, Room 394, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580, Electronic Mail: email@example.com; Telephone (202) 326-3300. For more information on the laws that the Bureau enforces, the Commission has published “Promoting Competition, Protecting Consumers: A Plain English Guide to Antitrust Laws,” which can be accessed at http://www.ftc.gov/bc/compguide/index.htm.
Office of Public Affairs
Mark D.S. Peterson, Joel Christie, or Grace Kwon
Bureau of Competition
202-326-3731, -3297, or -2560
(FTC File No. 061-0026)