FTC Tells House Subcommittee it will Help Identify Ways to Strengthen Consumer Protections in the Funeral Industry

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The Federal Trade Commission today told the U.S. House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection of the Committee on Energy and Commerce that the FTC will use its expertise to help the Subcommittee address the problems highlighted by last year’s horrific events at the historic Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.

The testimony presented by Charles Harwood, Deputy Director in the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, also expressed strong support for the goals of H.R. 3655, to give consumers greater protection against fraud and abusive practices in the funeral industry.

According to the testimony, the bill would authorize the FTC to regulate cemeteries nationwide and direct the agency to extend the key consumer protections in the FTC’s Funeral Rule – now applied mainly to funeral homes – to cemeteries, crematories and retailers of caskets, urns, monuments and markers. The expanded consumer protections sought by the bill would require cemeteries and other newly covered entities to disclose prices up-front, prohibit misrepresentations and required purchases, and mandate that contracts be written clearly and itemize the goods and services that are included and how much they cost. The testimony states that while the legislation could entail compliance and enforcement costs, it could also benefit consumers.

The testimony also described the agency’s law enforcement efforts to protect consumers in the funeral industry, and the increase in compliance with the Funeral Rule as a result of annual enforcement “sweeps” of funeral homes around the country. The Commission vote authorizing the testimony was 4-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

(Funeral Testimony)
(FTC File No. P034410)

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