The Federal Trade Commission despatched warning letters to 39 funeral properties after an undercover cellphone investigation discovered the funeral properties failed to supply correct pricing data or give out pricing data in any respect, the company introduced Thursday.
Violations of the FTC’s funeral rule, which requires that funeral properties inform individuals who name or go to in particular person about their service choices and costs, can carry a penalty of as much as $51,744 per violation.
The funeral properties on this investigation, nevertheless, simply acquired warning letters. In the letters, the FTC reiterated the funeral rule and requested the funeral properties to take immediate remedial motion to ensure they’re now not in violation.
“We think it’s important that funeral homes comply with the funeral rule and provide accurate information over the phone,” mentioned Rebecca Plett, an lawyer within the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection and one of many co-coordinators for the funeral rule.
During the investigation, which was the primary undercover cellphone probe of the business, FTC investigators and employees positioned calls in 2023 to greater than 250 funeral properties across the nation to attempt to get hold of worth data, discovering that 39 funeral properties violated the funeral rule.
From the archives (December 2022): Opinion: Funeral properties ought to publish costs on-line
The FTC declined to touch upon what prompted the investigation.
On 38 of the calls, funeral properties both refused to reply questions on pricing in any respect or supplied inconsistent pricing for an identical providers, the FTC mentioned.
On a kind of calls, a funeral house additionally misrepresented that the native well being code required stays to be embalmed if greater than a sure variety of folks needed to view them, when the native well being code didn’t really require this, the FTC mentioned.
Embalming is a strategy of preserving a physique after dying. Direct cremation doesn’t contain embalming. Most states don’t require a physique to be embalmed, and the few states that do require embalming solely achieve this in restricted circumstances, equivalent to if refrigeration will not be out there.
On one other name, a funeral house promised to ship a common worth record, which is required to incorporate vital disclosures and itemized providers, however as an alternative supplied costs for packages of providers that didn’t meet the funeral-rule necessities, the FTC mentioned.
The record of funeral properties to which the company despatched letters might be discovered within the FTC’s press launch.
“It’s an important safeguard, especially if people can’t go in person for whatever reason or are calling from out of state. It’s important for people to be able to comparison shop, because funerals can be a huge expense for a lot of people,” Plett mentioned. “We’re hoping to make difficult times easier. People are having to make emotional decisions when they are grieving, and they’re often under time pressure.”
The National Funeral Directors Association couldn’t instantly be reached for remark.
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Finding costs for funeral providers might be tough as a result of funeral properties aren’t required to publish their providers and charges on-line.
That could change sooner or later. The FTC has collected public feedback and is reviewing whether or not to require funeral properties to publish their costs on-line. The authentic funeral rule, which went into impact in 1984 and was amended in 1994, predates broad client use of the web.
From the archives (November 2022): Do you need your funeral to be a Porsche or a Hyundai? Funeral properties could must publish costs on-line for the primary time.
The FTC additionally supplied ideas for customers working with funeral properties:
- Consumers needs to be conscious that funeral properties should reply questions over the cellphone or in particular person about what providers they provide and disclose all of their costs.
- When you ask a funeral house a couple of service, equivalent to direct cremation, inquire about what’s and isn’t included within the worth. Ask if there will likely be different prices, equivalent to for transportation, dying certificates or obituaries.
- Ask a funeral house to ship you an electronic mail or textual content with details about costs, providers and merchandise. Funeral properties aren’t required to ship the data in that format, however many will, the FTC mentioned.
- If you don’t wish to go in particular person, inform a funeral house you wish to make plans with out visiting. If a funeral house gained’t ship you details about costs, providers and merchandise, discover a completely different enterprise, the FTC mentioned.
- You should buy a casket, cremation container or urn on-line from an outdoor producer or retailer to make use of at a funeral house. The funeral house can’t cost a charge for utilizing your merchandise.
- You could must pay further charges due to state or native legal guidelines. A funeral house should record objects required by regulation and their price on the written assertion supplied.
- Some funeral properties supply discounted-package funerals, however you don’t have to purchase a package deal that features objects you don’t need. Ask about itemized costs. The funeral house should allow you to purchase solely the providers you need and want.
- Ask for a written assertion earlier than you settle for the preparations.