The Funeral Rule: Know Your Rights

Arranging a funeral for a loved one is the saddest duty most of us will ever face. Even if you arrange your own funeral while you’re still healthy, selecting the goods and services you want can unleash a flood of powerful feelings, leaving you especially vulnerable as you make one of the most expensive purchases of your life.

The Funeral Rule was enacted in 1984 and amended in 1994 to protect consumers like you. The Rule defines your rights regarding the purchase of funeral goods and services and protects you from unfair and deceptive practices by funeral providers. The Federal Trade Commission – the agency of the U.S. government charged with protecting consumer rights and promoting fair business practices and free competition – is responsible for enforcing the Funeral Rule.

Before you purchase funeral goods or services for yourself or a loved one, be sure to familiarize yourself with the provisions of the Funeral Rule. When you know your rights, you can save thousands of dollars by selecting only the goods and services you want and need.

What’s in the Funeral Rule?

The Funeral Rule is a lengthy, detailed legal document with many provisions. The following is a summary of the Rule’s highlights; to view the Funeral Rule in its entirety, visit the FTC website at http://www.ftc.gov/.

The Funeral Rule

  • Defines who must comply with the Rule’s provisions. In brief, the funeral rule applies to anyone who sells funeral goods and funeral services to consumers. Funeral services include caring for and preparing a body for final disposition and arranging or conducting the funeral ceremony and disposition.
  • Applies to all funeral goods and services purchased after 1984, whether pre-planned, purchased at time of need, or purchased through a pre-need contract.
  • Requires funeral providers to give a General Price List to anyone who asks in person about goods and services offered and the price of those services.
  • Identifies the information that funeral providers must give to consumers who inquire about funeral goods and services over the phone.
  • Prohibits misrepresentations or deceptive practices on the part of funeral providers.

The General Price List

Central to the Funeral Rule is the General Price List (GPL), which contains the funeral provider’s identifying information, itemized prices for goods and services, and other important disclosures to allow consumers to compare prices and to purchase only the goods and services they want or need.

At a minimum, the General Price List must contain the following information:

  • Contact information (name, address, and telephone number) for the funeral provider.
  • The title (“General Price List”) and the effective date of the price list.
  • Six disclosures, including
  1. The consumer’s right to select only the items he wants to buy, besides a non-declinable basic services fee.
  2. A statement that embalming is not required by law.
  3. The availability of “alternative containers” (e.g., a fiberboard coffin) for use in direct cremation.
  4. The “basic services fee” for the professional services of the funeral director and staff, and what services are included in the fee. The basic services fee typically includes such items as planning the funeral, obtaining permits, preparing death notices, coordinating arrangements with the cemetery or crematory.
  5. A list of casket prices or a notice that a separate Casket Price List is available.
  6. A list of outer burial container prices or a notice that a separate Outer Burial Container Price List is available, along with a notice stating that while an outer burial container may be required by the cemetery, an outer burial container is not required by law in most areas of the country.
  • Itemized prices for certain discretionary goods and services, such as transfer of remains to or from the funeral home, embalming, direct cremation, and use of funeral home vehicles and equipment, for example.

For more information regarding your rights under the Funeral Rule, or if you believe your rights have been violated, can contact the FTC via their website (www.ftc.gov), or call 1-877-382-4357.

Discuss: The Funeral Rule: Know Your Rights

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