RELEASE: FTC to crack down on lack of funeral home price disclosures

Media Contacts
Ed Mierzwinski

Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

WASHINGTON – When rules requiring funeral homes to disclose prices up front took effect in 1984, the internet and websites as we know them didn’t exist. Funeral homes currently must provide price lists to anyone who asks – in person. Over the phone? Not completely. Online? Not at all.

Now, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering strengthening and updating the rules to require funeral homes to post prices online. The FTC voted unanimously Thursday to consider amending the 38-year-old rule. The FTC will soon publish a 60-day request for public comment in the Federal Register.

“Funeral homes catch aggrieved consumers at their most vulnerable while they’re trying to honor the memory of their loved one,” said Ed Mierzwinski, Senior Director, Federal Consumer Program at U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “It’s an opportunity to upsell or increase prices. Consumers can’t really shop around, nor do they have the time or state of mind to visit multiple funeral homes, which is the only way to comparison shop. Online disclosures would help consumers compare prices more quickly and would allow customers to make sure after the fact that they weren’t overcharged.” 

The FTC said its research shows that more than 60% of funeral home websites have little or no pricing information. The need for online pricing became even more important during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people either couldn’t or didn’t want to visit a funeral home to get a price list in person, the FTC said.

“I can’t think of any good reason funeral homes would push back on this, since they already must have printed price lists to hand out in person. Yet many funeral homes oppose providing prices online,” said U.S. PIRG Education Fund Consumer Watchdog Teresa Murray. “The lack of transparency is curious, and it’s not good for consumers.”  

The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to give consumers itemized pricing and prohibits funeral homes from misrepresenting laws or burial requirements. Those include: 

  1. charging for embalming without permission; 
  2. requiring a casket to be purchased for cremation; and 
  3. requiring consumers to pay for specific goods or services before getting other goods or services.

While the FTC considers new rules to protect people making funeral arrangements, here are some tips for consumers based on the existing rules:

  • Know your rights: The current rule requires six prices/disclosures: 
  1. The basic services fee; 
  2. a list of casket prices;
  3. embalming (which isn’t required); 
  4. alternative containers for direct cremation; 
  5. the price list for a burial vault or grave liner; and 
  6. the consumer’s right to select only the goods and services desired. 
  • If you’re going to a funeral home to make arrangements, take a trusted friend or someone else not as close to the deceased person to help you make decisions with clarity.
  • Get what you’re entitled to. The Funeral Rule requires that anyone can ask for and obtain, in person, anywhere (for example, at a hospital as well as a funeral home), a copy of the funeral home’s General Price List. 

For more tips, see our consumer guide “Funeral home prices: Here’s what you should know.”