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Government warns funeral homes to stop misleading bereaved customers about pricing

Jan 25, 2024, 6:07 PM

The Federal Trade Commission warned 39 funeral homes across the US that they risk hefty penalties i...

The Federal Trade Commission warned 39 funeral homes across the US that they risk hefty penalties if they fail to disclose accurate pricing information to customers.(Kzenon/iStockphoto/Getty Images)

(Kzenon/iStockphoto/Getty Images)

New York (CNN) — A government agency warned 39 funeral homes across the US that they risk hefty penalties if they fail to disclose accurate pricing information to customers, the Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday.

The FTC conducted an undercover phone sweep of more than 250 funeral homes, placing calls to obtain pricing information. For 38 calls, the agency said the funeral homes either refused to answer questions about pricing or gave inconsistent information about identical services.

Funeral homes have to follow the FTC’s “Funeral Rule,” which provides bereaved consumers rights during the process and holds the business to strict requirements. One of the caveats is that funeral homes must give customers a general price list, and customers have the right to choose which services they want.

Funerals can be a major financial burden for families, and they are getting more expensive. The median cost of a funeral is $7,848 and the median cost of a funeral with cremation is approximately $6,971, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Funeral prices rose 4.7% between December 2022 and December 2023, according to CPI data.

“Telephone inquiries are particularly important for people who are grieving a loss or making arrangements for a loved one in a different city. That’s why the Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide accurate price information over the phone,” Lesley Fair, a senior attorney with the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, wrote in an online post.

On one call, the funeral home said local health code required the body to be embalmed, the process of preserving a body after death. Most states’ health code, including that one, actually do not require embalming, the FTC said, and most states that do only require it in certain circumstances.

Yet another funeral home promised to send a general pricing list but instead sent a list of package prices. That broke the requirements, the FTC alleged.

The agency listed the funeral homes it sent warning letters to on its site, the locations ranging from Laredo, Texas, to Philadelphia. Funeral homes that don’t comply could pay up to $51,744 per violation.

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Government warns funeral homes to stop misleading bereaved customers about pricing