Dozens of funeral homes violate federal rule

By Anthony GiorgianniConsumer Reports

When making funeral arrangements, don't assume the funeral home is following the law.

Undercover visits by federal investigators to 122 funeral homes in 2013 found that nearly one in four failed to provide the pricing information required by the Federal Trade Commission's funeral rule, the FTC announced.

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The 30 funeral homes that failed the inspections are located in nine states: California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin.  Funeral homes in Monroe, La., had the highest failure rate, with nearly 50 percent of the 17 visited facilities failing the inspections, the FTC said. The other locations with the highest failure rates were Amarillo, Texas, where six of 19 homes failed the inspections, and Dayton, Ohio, where five of 15 homes failed. The names of the homes were not released.

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Among the requirements of the funeral rule, funeral homes must give prices over the telephone upon request. And they must automatically provide price lists when consumers visit. The rule also allows consumers to buy only those funeral products and services they want. Funeral homes could face a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per violation.

Lisa Carlson, executive director of the Funeral Ethics Organization, said funeral directors who violate the rule are well aware of the requirements to provide price lists but choose to ignore them.

"They think it isn’t important," she said. "They’re more concerned with cranking up the dollars."

All but two of the homes that failed the inspections have agreed to enter the three-year funeral rule offenders program, which provides ongoing training, testing, and monitoring by the National Funeral Directors Association. The program allows violators to avoid civil penalties. Carlson said that's letting funeral homes off too easily.

"I think they ought to be slapping them with fines outright," she said. "They’d wake up a lot faster."

— Anthony Giorgianni

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