Trade Commission (FTC) enforces law known as the Funeral Rule in an effort
to protect consumers in their purchase of funeral goods and services.
It ensures that there are clear guidelines for funeral homes to comply
with when they are selling their services and products to the general public.
Funeral homes who fail to comply with the funeral rule are fined, or have
an option to participate in a five-year funeral-training program.
The FTC conduct annual sweeps to check compliance, or of course consumers
can report issues of non-compliance.
Why was the funeral rule established?
The funeral rule was established
to regulate the funeral industry and protect consumers from unscrupulous
selling practices. It was introduced in April 1984 and further amended
in 1994. At the time there had been ‘issues’ with funeral homes leading
people to believe that they had to purchase certain services that were
not necessarily required e.g. embalming. There was also a kind of
monopoly on caskets, as only funeral homes sold caskets and therefore they
had hugely inflated the retail prices. The funeral rule changed all
How does the funeral rule protect
Listed below are the key ways
that the funeral rule now protects your consumer rights.
1. The funeral rule gives
you the right to purchase ONLY the funeral arrangements YOU want.
You can purchase services and goods ‘a la carte’ and do not have to purchase
a funeral package unless you so choose.
2. You have the right to
obtain funeral price information over the phone, and a funeral home MUST
disclose their prices to you if you ask. You do not have to provide
any information, although most funeral homes will still try and get your
contact details before disclosing prices. Some funeral homes will
even put you onto a funeral director, even if you have just asked for a
straightforward price. If you are looking online, you may notice
that a significant number of funeral homes still do not disclose prices
on their website, or they make them very difficult to find.
3. The funeral rule’s requirement
for full disclosure of prices has made it easier for consumers to compare
funeral prices. Whether you choose to do this by phoning funeral
homes, checking online or visiting in person. Comparing prices between
funeral providers is very important as there is no ‘standardization’ of
funeral services or products, and prices can vary tremendously, even within
the same area.
4. When you visit a funeral
home to inquire about funeral services, the funeral home must provide you
with a printed, itemized price list, listing all the services they offer.
This is called a General Price List (GPL).
5. The funeral rule also
requires for a hard copy casket price list (CPL) to be provided to you
before you are shown any actual caskets. Sometimes this may be included
as part of the GPL. Similarly, if you inquire about outer burial
containers (which are not required by state law anywhere in the US) and
the funeral home sells them, then they must provide you with an outer burial
container price list.
6. The funeral rule stipulates
that you can purchase a casket or cremation urn from elsewhere than your
funeral home and they MUST accept it. Additionally they CANNOT charge
a handling fee, nor insist you are present to receive the delivery.
*Do note: there are a small number of states where there is a powerful
local lobby and state law still supersedes federal law especially in relation
to casket sales, and only a licensed funeral establishment can sell caskets.
This applies in (but is not limited to) Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi,
7. Embalming is not required
by law in any state in the U.S. if the burial or cremation is to be carried
out in a timely fashion. Refrigeration is an adequate means of storage
and preservation. However, some funeral homes still have policies
specifying embalming if an open-casket public viewing or ceremony are to
take place. There are still some funeral homes that do not have refrigeration,
however dry ice is a suitable short-term refrigeration alternative.
8. The funeral rule also
helped to protect consumer’s rights in using an ‘alternative container’
for a cremation. No state law requires that a casket be used for
cremation purposes, instead a more inexpensive alternative container can
9. Finally, before you pay
the funeral home you should receive a fully itemized statement listing
all services and products you have purchased with the price for each.
You should carefully check this contract with the funeral home before signing
What should you do if you feel
you have a complaint about a licensed funeral home that has breached the
If you have a concern that a
funeral home has breached the federal funeral rule you can make a formal
complaint to the FTC. The FTC does not pursue a case for an individual,
but providing the FTC with information about non-complying funeral establishments,
helps them to build a picture of any funeral companies that may be violating
It is advisable to report
your concerns to your local state licensing board that licenses funeral
establishments and possibly the state funeral directors association.
You may also find the Funeral Consumers Alliance can support you if you
have a grievance against a funeral home that has violated the funeral rule.
State specific guidance about making a complaint can be found on our individual
state funeral planning guides.
Whenever possible, it is
always advisable to try and settle your grievance directly with the funeral
home concerned. In many cases, when you point out to them that they
have violated a federal law, you may find that they will be willing to
mediate on your grievance.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
Consumers Alliance (FCA)
Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA)