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Funeral Directors often prey on emotions.

FTC & WSJ Investigate Funeral Home Misleading Practices

The funeral industry faces increased scrutiny following the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) groundbreaking undercover investigation, which uncovered significant non-compliance with the FTC's Funeral Rule among funeral homes nationwide. This rule is critical for ensuring transparency and fairness, allowing bereaved families to compare funeral service prices and choose arrangements fitting their needs and budget. During this extensive operation in 2023, FTC investigators representing various regions, including East Central, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, and both Western Regions (Los Angeles and San Francisco), plus the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Division of Marketing Practices, conducted over 250 undercover phone inquiries to funeral homes across the United States. 

Their goal was to assess compliance with the Funeral Rule, particularly regarding providing price information. Alarmingly, the commission found that 39 funeral homes violated this rule during these calls. A staggering 38 funeral homes failed to provide clear and consistent pricing information for identical funeral services over the phone. This is a significant concern for consumers seeking cost-effective funeral arrangements. Additionally, in one notable instance, a funeral home falsely claimed that local health regulations mandated embalming under certain circumstances, a process not universally required and often contingent on specific state laws or conditions, such as the availability of refrigeration. 

  • On 38 of the calls, funeral homes either refused to answer questions about pricing or provided inconsistent pricing for identical services. 

  • On one of those calls, the funeral home also misrepresented that the local health code required remains to be embalmed if more than a certain number of people wanted to view the remains when it was not required by the local health code. Embalming is a process of preserving a body after death. Most states do not require a body to be embalmed, and the few states that require embalming only do so in limited circumstances, such as if refrigeration is not available. 

  • On another call, the funeral home promised to send a General Price List, which is required to include essential disclosures and itemized services but instead provided a list of package prices that did not meet the Funeral Rule requirements for a General Price List. 

  • Another concerning practice involved a funeral home promising to provide a General Price List – a crucial document outlining detailed service charges and disclosures as per the Funeral Rule – but instead delivering a package price list that fell short of the rule’s requirements. 

Separately, The Wall Street Journal's investigation into the funeral industry has brought to light over 500 funeral homes engaged in unethical practices, exploiting grieving customers. This revelation is alarming as it highlights a longstanding issue concealed due to a unique agreement between the FTC and the funeral industry. Unlike other industries, funeral homes found violating price transparency and fair practice rules are not publicly disclosed if they participate in a virtual remedial program. This program, managed by the industry’s own lobbying group, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), has reportedly seen participation from more than 500 funeral homes since its inception in 1996. 

Federal documents obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests reveal that a staggering 90% of funeral homes cited for violations have participated in this remedial program, according to the FTC. For the first time, a comprehensive list of these violations and details of the NFDA-FTC agreement are being published, shedding light on a system that has allowed unfair and deceptive practices to increase in the funeral industry – a sector valued at $20 billion annually. This exposure calls for heightened awareness and vigilance among consumers when engaging with funeral homes. It underscores the importance of understanding one’s rights under the Funeral Rule and the necessity of transparency in funeral service pricing and practices.

Signature Headstones was founded on the ideal that there can be a better way for consumers to shop for funeral products. In 2013, we set out to offer a wider selection of high-quality caskets and funeral headstones that fit any family's budget. We forged solid manufacturing partnerships along with a nation-wide network of distribution hubs supported by more than 200 shipping partners.