22% Of Prices For Funerals With Cremation Don’t Include The Actual Cremation

Image courtesy of Justin Dolske

The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule requires disclosures and price breakdowns to protect consumers who, unless they’re pre-planning their own funeral, are operating on a time crunch and are grieving. Yet a recent study found that more than a fifth of funeral homes failed to correctly explain and itemize available options and the expenses for direct cremation.

While the FTC conducts similar surveys itself looking for violations of the Funeral Rule, in this case, the Consumer Federation of America and the Funeral Consumers Alliance posed as consumers to see what they would be told.

Their findings when it comes to direct cremation were troubling. Direct cremation is exactly what it sounds like: the deceased person is cremated immediately, without being embalmed or holding a viewing. It means that their survivors don’t have to purchase a casket, and that’s where the problems were.

One troubling finding was that while funeral homes would quote a price for a direct cremation service, this price wouldn’t include the actual cremation itself. Funeral homes usually don’t have their own crematory, and pass along that charge to the consumer.

The problem is that the on their price lists, 22% of funeral homes that the groups checked didn’t include the cost of the actual cremation when advertising their cost for a direct-cremation service. That’s an important detail, since it adds $200-$600 to the total bill.

The Funeral Rule also spells out that consumers have the right to purchase and bring in their own container, even if they purchased it elsewhere. That includes caskets and urns, but it also includes containers used for cremation. That might be an unadorned wooden box or a human-sized cardboard box, but the important thing is that it doesn’t have to be sold by the funeral home.

They also found that total prices varied significantly within the same region, even though investigators were checking prices for what should have been simple and similar direct-cremation services.

(CFA/FCA)

(CFA/FCA)

“This extreme price variation provides compelling evidence of the need for effective price disclosure,” Stephen Brobeck, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America, said in a statement. “Accurate price disclosure on all funeral home websites would certainly restrain those homes that clearly are gouging consumers today.”

While it’s important to advise consumers of their rights under the Funeral Rule, they also shouldn’t have to be watching out for possible ripoffs when planning a loved one’s sendoff.

Both groups call on the FTC to revise the Funeral Rule to reflect the popularity of direct cremation, and require funeral homes to include the actual cremation when quoting prices on a written list, over the phone, and on their websites.

New Report on Cremation Services Documents That Some Funeral Homes Violate Federal Consumer Protection Rules [Consumer Federation of America]