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FTC plans updates to Funeral Rule

At Phaneuf, we believe funeral homes should voluntarily post prices online to make things easier for families during a difficult time. We’ve posted funeral and cremation costs on our website for over 20 years. And soon, U.S. funeral homes may be forced to post  pricing online.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) visited nearly 200 websites of U.S. funeral providers during the pandemic when many people did not visit public places. They found that less than 25%of funeral home websites included all pricing options and more than 60% of funeral providers had no online price information. 

The results of the study has the FTC updating FTC Funeral Rule (1984) about funeral pricing. 

“Stories persist about consumers spending hours trying to answer the most basic questions about how much it will cost to bury their loved ones,” FTC Chair Lina M. Khan wrote in a statement. “In the internet era, it’s hard to see why anyone should have to physically visit or call multiple funeral homes just to compare prices.”

In October, the FTC voted to make “potential amendments to the rule,” which likely means funeral providers will soon have to post their pricing online.

“Had it been written in the internet era, online pricing would have been mandated,” Joshua Slocum, executive director of the nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance, told The New York Times.

Despite the funeral rule, some funeral homes continue making it hard for families to shop intelligently for funeral services. About 18% of the 90 funeral homes inspected since 2018 failed to disclose “timely itemized pricing information,” the FTC recently reported. The inspections were from 13 homes in Georgia, 20 in Louisiana, 23 in Nevada, 11 in New Jersey and 23 in Texas.

Phaneuf was the first funeral home in New Hampshire to post online pricing. (We estimate 25%of NH funeral providers do not post pricing online). We think it’s important to provide a clear and concise pricing list for services and merchandise, as well as package pricing, so that the families we serve can choose what makes the most sense to them. Unfortunately, there are too many funeral homes that don’t post pricing on their websites, or display it in a way that makes it challenging for potential clients to compare apples to apples.

Here are a couple of reasons why we believe funeral service pricing should be transparent:

It Provides Options

It’s important for people to make the best possible decision based on their needs, wants, and budgets. The best way to make an educated decision is by comparing pricing between providers. In addition, it’s important to provide pricing for individual items, in addition to package pricing, so that people have the flexibility to craft the services that are meaningful to them and their families.

It Makes the Process Easier

When a family member or friend passes, we are often left with many decisions, such as where to make the final arrangements, how to choose appropriate services, and more. People are typically in a heightened emotional state, which can make it more difficult to make decisions. When funeral service providers make their pricing clear and simple, it helps those seeking services easily make the right choices for their families and their deceased loved one. Another reason funeral service providers should be transparent with their pricing is pretty straightforward: It’s the law.

The Funeral Rule Says So

The Funeral Rule was put into place on April 30, 1984, and later revised in 1994. It mandates that funeral homes give accurate and itemized prices to consumers, to provide them with all the information they need to make informed decisions about purchasing such services. Furthermore, the law includes the following specifics:

Right to a General Price List

Consumers have the right to request a general price list from funeral providers, and to choose the specific products and services they desire (within reason).

Purchases Required By Law

If an item must be purchased due to state or local law, it must be noted on the price list, and the specific law must be referenced.

Caskets Bought Elsewhere

Funeral providers must willingly handle caskets bought elsewhere, and may not charge a fee to do so.

These are just a few of the specifics of the Funeral Rule, which is enforced through annual undercover inspections each year. When it comes down to it, keeping funeral pricing transparent is really a win-win solution, which brings us to our final point:

Transparent Pricing Benefits Everyone

By offering transparent pricing to those looking to do advanced funeral planning, or for those shopping for needed services, funeral homes are more likely to become a trusted provider in the community.

You Can Easily Start Planning Now.

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