It's been over thirty years since the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Funeral Rule was enacted in an effort to make funeral pricing more transparent and straightforward. The Rule, which is enforced by the FTC, makes it possible for consumers to choose only those goods and services that are actually needed or wanted and to pay only for those goods and services selected. The Rule is also supposed to allow consumers to compare prices among funeral homes. It requires funeral homes to give customers their price information over the phone when asked, and also requires that they give customers an itemized list when they visit the funeral home. Unfortunately, nearly thirty years later and consumers are having just as difficult a time getting pricing information.
A survey published on October 19, 2015, by the Federal Consumers Alliance (FCA) and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) showed what a terrible job funeral homes and cremation businesses do in disclosing their prices. The report released by the FCA and the CFA was based on a national survey they conducted of the prices and price disclosures of a representative sample of 150 funeral homes from ten different regions of the country. The survey found that only 38 of the 150 (25%) funeral homes disclosed their prices on their website and 24 (16%) failed to disclose pricing on their website and in response to an email and a phone call. The most striking information was the price variances in a single city. In D.C. the price for full service funerals was found to range from $3,770 to $13,800. The cost for the same funeral services varied by at least 100% in every city and sometimes by as much as three times the cost of the lowest service. As the CFA Exective Director, Steven Brobeck, points out, these dramatic price ranges for identical funeral services indicate that the "markets lack effective competition."
Now, consumer advocates are asking the FTC to require funeral homes to post pricing lists on their websites. The FCA Executive Director, Josh Slocum, says that the FTC needs to update its antiquated disclosure rules, which were last updated in 1994, before the internet. California is cited as an example of a jurisdiction that has done just that, and now requires funeral homes to disclose on their websites the same pricing that the FTC requires to be disclosed by phone or in-person. The FCA and CFA are releasing their research to the FTC and urging them to update the Funeral Rule to require price disclosure on funeral home websites.