April 21, 2013 in Business

BBB Tip of the Week: the Funeral Rule

 

The funeral business is a $15 billion to $20 billion industry.

Sadly, unscrupulous funeral directors may use deceptive or unfair business practices to prey on grieving families. To combat these practices, the Federal Trade Commission enforces the Funeral Rule.

The Funeral Rule applies to any business that sells both funeral goods and services. It doesn’t apply to third-party sellers, like casket or monument dealers and cemeteries without a funeral home on-site.

BBB recommends familiarizing yourself with the following Funeral Rule guidelines to avoid further heartache during a difficult time. Businesses covered by the Funeral Rule must comply with the following provisions:

• Provide a general price list of all goods and services at the start of any in-person discussion for funeral arrangements. Prices for caskets and outer burial containers must be given before the consumer looks at any caskets or vaults.

• Must give accurate information to anyone inquiring over the phone, but a general price list is not required to be sent following a phone or mail inquiry.

• Cannot require a client to buy a “package” of goods and services that includes anything the client does not want to purchase.

• Cannot say the law requires the client to purchase an item or service, if it isn’t true.

• Cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn bought elsewhere and cannot charge a handling fee in such circumstances.

• Cannot charge for embalming without the client’s authorization, unless required by state law.

Certain disclosures must be provided on the funeral provider’s general price list. In addition, any local or state laws requiring the purchase of funeral services or goods must be included in writing on the general price list. The required disclosures include the consumer’s right to select only the goods and services desired; embalming; alternative containers for direct cremation; the basic services fee; the casket price list (if separate from the general price list); and the outer burial container price list (if separate from the general price list).

The Funeral Rule also applies to pre-need inquiries and any arrangements and payments made before the funeral goods and services are needed. Those who sell pre-need contracts on behalf of funeral homes are also covered by the rule as an agent of the funeral provider.

For more information about the Funeral Rule, visit the FTC’s Business Center website at business.ftc.gov/funerals. To check out a business or file a complaint with the BBB, visit www.bbb.org or call 509-455-4200.

Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor


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