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Report: Funeral Directors Need To Be More Transparent About Pricing

You may have seen news articles this week about a new report from the Funeral Consumers Alliance and Consumer Federation of America about funeral prices. According to the report, a survey of 150 funeral homes in 10 regions across the U.S. found that there are significant price differences from one funeral home to another.

Three types of service were priced – direct cremation without ceremony, immediate burial without ceremony or the cost of a casket, and full-service funeral, including the following items: basic services of the funeral director and staff, transport of the body from place of death to the funeral home, embalming, other preparation of the body, viewing or calling hours, funeral ceremony with casket present, hearse to the cemetery, sedan or limousine for the family, and a graveside ceremony.

The research found that countrywide, prices ranged from $475 to $7,595 for direct cremation; from $640 to $6,800 for immediate burial; and from $2,580 to $13,800 for a full-service funeral.

Prices within individual areas also varied by at least 100 percent and often by more than 200 percent, according to the report. In Seattle, for instance, a cremation went from a low of $495 to a high of $3,390; in Minneapolis, direct burial ranged from $650 to $3,395; and in Washington, DC, a full funeral ranged from $3,770 to $13,800.

“I was stunned at the prices,” Stephen Brobeck, CFA executive director, said when announcing the report results. “This is not a competitive market, and that’s because it’s very difficult to comparison shop.” He also noted that the bereaved are already reluctant to comparison shop.

The report also noted the that most funeral homes fail to disclose their prices adequately:  Only 25% of the 150 funeral homes fully disclosed pricing on their websites; 29% provided the information after an email; 29% gave the information after an email and phone call; and 16% failed not only to fully disclose pricing on their website, but they also didn’t disclose them in response to an email and a phone call.

At Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium and the Cremation Society of Southern New Hampshire, we believe in full transparency for our pricing. Both the Phaneuf website and The CSNH website list prices for our services, packages, and merchandise – as well a full description of what you’re getting. We also offer a free brochure via mail or download that discloses all of our prices. Of course, you can always call us 24 hours a day at 603-625-5777 and speak with a staff member. We do this because we know funeral or cremation can be expensive. We work with you to provide what you need at a price you can afford – and we are always upfront about what you’re getting and what it costs.

We do this because we believe in it. The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule requires funeral homes only to provide price information over the phone upon a visit to the home.  It does not put funeral homes under the responsibility of providing prices via a website.

The FCA wants the FTC to change the Funeral Rule, which was passed before the Internet Age. “The FTC needs to require funeral homes to disclose prices clearly and completely on their websites,” said FCA’s Slocum.  “This disclosure will greatly increase consumer search for price information.  It will also allow journalists, consumer information services, and consumer groups to much more easily research, compare, and report on prices.”

According to a press release, FCA and CFA will submit the report to the FTC and are urging the agency to update the Funeral Rule.

What do you think? Should funeral homes fully disclose prices both online and offline?

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