Funeral Rule grants consumers options when dealing with death
Despite having 30 years to get it right, one in four funeral homes still isn’t following a government regulation intended to protect mourners from the confusing and sometimes slippery practices of the funeral planning industry.
Annually, the Federal Trade Commission conducts compliance checks across the U.S. to ensure best practices are being followed among funeral providers. But its latest findings, published last week, found that 24.5% of funeral homes failed to comply with the FTC’s 1984 Funeral Rule, which makes it possible for consumers to pick and choose the funeral services and goods a la carte. The Funeral Rule was enacted to help empower consumers during their time of grief, and to mitigate the chance of funeral homes purposely or inadvertently taking advantage of the situation by getting consumers to purchase more items than they really want. (For example, a funeral home can’t require a consumer to purchase a casket as a condition for obtaining any other funeral goods or services.)
However, the Funeral Rule isn’t well-known among either consumers or funeral providers. Since 2010, only 75% of funeral homes have been compliant with the law, and that figure has remained stagnant in recent years, according to FTC documents. But the FTC’s Funeral Rule spokesman, Craig Tregillus, says he believes progress is being made, noting that the figure has increased significantly over the past quarter of a century, as some studies in the late 1980s put funeral homes at 30% compliance, he says.
Indeed, the FTC, which is responsible for enforcement, has been working to improve compliance. It gives offending funeral homes the opportunity to enter a three-year program designed to increase compliance, known as the Funeral Rule Offenders Program. It’s an alternative to an FTC lawsuit that could lead to a federal court order and civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation. For the inspections they conducted this year, all but two funeral homes with price-disclosure violations have agreed to enter the Funeral Rule Offenders Program. The remainder will be sued, Tregillus says.