A joint report prepared by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) documents difficulties in obtaining funeral pricing information. These two organizations request that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) update the Federal Funeral Rule to require funeral homes to post information on the internet. See the CFA press release of October 19, 2015.
I listened in on the October 19 teleconference as Stephen Brobeck of CFA and Josh Slocum of FCA spoke to the news media about the results of surveys in 10 metropolitan areas, and the problems facing consumers who wish to do comparison shopping. Very few funeral homes post their prices online, except in California where a recent law requires such posting.
The research was undertaken this year by FCA with assistance from its local affiliates in Atlanta, District of Columbia, Philadelphia, Mercer Co. (NJ), Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Denver, Tucson, Orange Co. (CA), and Seattle. Fifteen funeral homes were selected randomly in each of these 10 locations. Out of these 150 funeral homes in the study, over half did not display prices online. Some of the prices displayed were only for bundled options, not the basic services that Federal law requires be provided to consumers in a General Price List (GPL). That GPL rule was written back in 1982 says Josh, and ought to be updated to require disclosure on the internet, rather than just to customers who visit or call by phone.
We agree. Online posting of GPLs would facilitate our biennial survey of funeral home prices in western Massachusetts, and would help consumers do comparison shopping, which we recommend. In January 2016 we'll start our next price survey; I hope our volunteers will find the GPLs easily available online. If not, we'll contact FCA and CFA to report data from our region to add to what they have already collected. Together we'll advocate for greater transparency of pricing, and for an updating of the federal funeral rule.
News of the national survey has been spreading rapidly. See articles in the N.Y.Times, Washington Business Service, Forbes, Yahoo news, or search "Funeral Consumers Alliance" via Google. The funeral industry is picking up the story: "Funeral Consumer Alliance Wants All Funeral Homes to Disclose Pricing on Websites" (ConnectingDirectors)
Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed here in "Sandy's Blog" are written by one individual (volunteer Sandy Ward) and may or may not reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.