Way back in 1984, the Federal Trade Commission established the Funeral Rule, which is actually a list of requirements for funeral homes to make sure that grieving consumers aren’t hoodwinked into paying too much for services or paying for unnecessary items. Nearly 30 years on, an undercover investigation by the FTC found that a surprising number of funeral homes are not abiding by the Rule.
The investigators went undercover — presumably not as cadavers, though that would be awesome — to check out 102 funeral homes in nine states. The study found 16 businesses with “significant violations” of the Funeral Rule, with another 33 funeral homes with minor violations.
Among other items, the Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide consumers with an itemized price list at the start of an in-person discussion of funeral arrangements. They must also provide a list of casket prices before consumers view any caskets. Funeral homes are prohibited from requiring consumers to buy a casket or any other product as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service.
The funeral homes found to have significant violations can enter the Funeral Rule Offenders Program (FROP), a training program designed to increase compliance with the Funeral Rule. If they do not, they face an FTC lawsuit with civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation. Funeral homes that participate in FROP make a “voluntary” payment to the U.S. Treasury in place of a civil penalty.
Here’s how the violators broke down by state:
*In Northwest Indiana, one of 12 funeral homes inspected had significant violations;
*In Maui, Hawaii, none of the four funeral homes inspected had significant violations;
*In the New York City area, as well as parts of Connecticut and New Jersey, one of 22 funeral homes inspected had significant violations;
*In Cleveland, Ohio, four of 16 funeral homes inspected had significant violations;
*In Columbia, South Carolina, five significant violations were found in 10 funeral homes inspected;
*In Austin, Texas, four of 19 funeral homes inspected had significant violations; and
*In Richmond and Fredericksburg, Virginia, eight of 19 funeral homes inspected had significant violations.
The 33 funeral homes with minor violations will be required to provide evidence that they are now in compliance.