Funeral Home Pays $25,000 for Violating FTC Funeral Rule
Know your rights and preplan to avoid funeral fraud
Funeral fraud hits when individuals and families are going through one of life's greatest emotional stresses. With emotions peaking over the loss of a loved one, it is not easy to attend the details and watch for dishonest dealings. Preparation and preplanning for funerals will not reduce the loss but will reduce a little stress and help passing through the grief without getting cheated.
Last week, a Washington, DC funeral home, B.K. Henry Funeral Chapel Inc. and the owners, Brian K. Henry and Lisa Henry, will pay a $25,000 civil penalty to resolve charges that they violated the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule. The FTC Funeral Rule helps ensure people have the information needed to compare prices and buy only the funeral goods and services they want.
The U.S. Department of Justice charged B.K. Henry Funeral Chapel, Brian K. Henry and Lisa Henry with failing to provide consumers with a casket price list, as required by law. The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to show consumers a casket price list before they view any caskets. The FTC based its complaint on inspections conducted by staff members posing as consumers seeking funeral arrangements. The FTC conducts undercover inspections every year to ensure funeral homes are complying with the Funeral Rule.
The proposed settlement permanently prohibits B.K. Henry Funeral Chapel, Brian K. Henry and Lisa Henry from “failing” to show consumers their casket price list and from violating other Rule requirements along with the $25K civil penalty.
The 1984 FTC Funeral Rule provides consumers important rights when making funeral arrangements. Knowing the rules and what you can expect will make funeral preparation easier on all family members. Key points of the rule require funeral homes to give consumers a general price list itemizing prices of funeral goods and services offered before funeral arrangement discussions begin. Prices must include casket and vault price lists before caskets or vaults are viewed and must be provided by phone on request.
Here are key points to remember. According to the Funeral Rule:
- You have the right to choose the funeral goods and services you want (with a few exceptions) and the funeral provider must state so in writing on their general price list
- If state or local law requires you to buy any particular item, the funeral provider must disclose it on the price list, with a reference to the specific law
- The funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket you bought elsewhere
- A funeral provider that offers cremations must make alternative containers available
- May not provide embalming services without permission
- May not falsely state that law requires embalming
- Must disclose in writing that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases
- May not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless embalming is required by state law
- Must disclose in writing that you usually have the right to choose a disposition, such as direct cremation or immediate burial, that does not require embalming if you do not want this service
- Must disclose in writing that some funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, if so, a required purchase
- May not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations, because none do
- Must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative container for a direct cremation
- Must make an unfinished wood box or other alternative container available for direct cremations
That is a good deal to remember and a good reason to prepare before the actual event that every one of us knows will happen eventually. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and plan ahead for yourself and any loved ones you caregive for. You will be glad you did. You can learn more on the web at the Bureau of Consumer Protection's page on Complying with the Funeral Rule.
You can file a complaint with the FTC here if you feel you have been a victim of fraud.
Published July 24, 2012
Updated July 25, 2012