The federal rule requiring funeral homes to list their prices was not invented by the Internet. Now, regulators are considering an update that would require houses to disclose their prices online.
“People are most vulnerable when they are grieving,” Lina M. Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission, commented about the proposed change. The goal of the rule is “to prevent consumers from being taken advantage of,” he said, adding that “funeral service providers are not required to post prices on their websites.”
The commission is considering the rule change as the Justice Department, on behalf of the FTC, reached a settlement this month with a company, Legacy Cremation Services, accused of using “bait and switch” tactics to trick bereaved people into overpaying for cremation services offered online and even, in some cases, threatening to withhold the remains to force families to pay. As part of the legal action, the government requires the company to publish precise details about the charges and services on its website.
Last year, the government sued Legacy Cremation Services and related companies and its owner, Anthony Joseph Damiano. the civilian complaint they claimed they were posing as local cremation providers, rather than middlemen who arrange services hours away from buyers.
The settlement, filed in Federal District Court in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., imposed a $275,000 fine and required Mr. Damiano and his companies to disclose important details on their websites, including the prices and location of their services.
“Lying to consumers about critical information, including the price and location of services when dealing with the loss of a loved one, is outrageous and illegal,” said Samuel Levine, director of the commission’s office of consumer protection. , it’s a statement. The FTC enforces the funeral rulewhich guarantees consumers the right to access prices and other information about funeral services.
Mr. Damiano, in a statement emailed by his lawyers, said Legacy “never intended to mislead” customers and that it intended to “rebuild its website to fully comply” with the terms of the agreement. . “Legacy sees the agreement with the Federal Trade Commission as a way to rebuild its relationship with clients to better serve families in their time of grief,” he said.
The Funeral Rule, which went into effect in 1984, requires funeral homes to provide written price lists to people who visit in person and to share prices over the phone if requested. But the law does not say anything about the publication of prices on the web, as well as about communication by email or text message. “The law does not require funeral homes to post prices online,” said Lois C. Greisman, associate director of the FTC’s division of marketing practices.
Consumer advocates, including the Funeral Consumers Alliance, see online prices as increasingly important because people may find themselves purchasing services while grieving the loss of a family member who lives far away.
the FTC reported last fall that just under a quarter of funeral home websites provided a full price list, while most offered “little or none” price information. (Commission staff visited about 200 websites in 2021, when many people were unable to visit funeral homes due to the pandemic.) At least one state, California, requires funeral homes to post prices online, though one 2019 review by Funeral Consumers Alliance found that a loophole allowed many to avoid doing so.
The commission decided in October review the rule, with a view to updating it to reflect current technology, including whether funeral providers should be required to provide prices online or via email. More than 700 people or institutions sent comments. Many people were in favor of requiring online price disclosure. The National Association of Funeral Directors, which represents about 11,000 funeral homes, said it supports voluntary disclosure of prices
If the commission changes the rule, the association said, it recommends that an online pricing requirement apply only to funeral homes that have existing websites. Households should not be required to set up a website to comply, the association said.
It’s unclear when, or if, the commission will change the rule. However, Ms. Khan, chair of the FTC, has indicated her support for “modernizing” the rule.
“In the internet age,” he said in October, “it’s hard to see why anyone should physically visit or call multiple funeral homes just to compare prices.” The electronic exchange of information, she said, could foster competition and “reduce the costly burden of putting a loved one to rest.”
Here are some questions and answers about finding funeral information:
How much does a funeral usually cost?
The median cost of a funeral, including viewing and burial, is about $7,800, according to 2021 data from the National Association of Funeral Directors. A vault, a coffin container often required by cemeteries, adds about $1,600. The average cost for cremation, including viewing, is approximately $7,000. The association includes the cost of embalming in the total for both burials and cremations, although it is rarely required by law, according to the Funeral Consumers Alliance.
Can I still request reimbursement for funeral expenses for a family member who died from Covid-19?
Yes. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will continue to provide assistance of up to $9,000 per funeral for families who have lost members to COVID-19 until September 30, 2025an agency spokesman, Jeremy M. Edwards, said this week. As of April 4, FEMA said, it has provided more than $2.9 billion to cover funeral services and related expenses.
For information, call 844-684-6333.
What do I do if I think a funeral home has violated the disclosure rule?
You can complain to the FTC at your website.