The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, has revised two brochures to help consumers make funeral choices, either in advance or at a time of need. These are great free resources for funeral planning!
Paying Final Respects summarizes consumer rights under the FTC’s Funeral Rule, which helps to ensure that people get information so they can compare prices among funeral homes. For example, consumers have a right to buy only the funeral goods (such as caskets) and services (such as embalming) they want, and to get a written, itemized price list when they visit a funeral home.
Shopping for Funeral Services provides a detailed guide to various kinds of funeral goods and services, includes a pricing checklist, glossary, and contact information for national organizations. This brochure was previously called Funerals: A Consumer Guide.
In case you didn’t know, here are a few of your rights as a funeral consumer:
- You have the right to choose only those goods and services you want (with some exceptions) and to pay only for those you select (you don’t have to use “packages” of goods and services that may include items you do not want).
- The funeral provider must state this right in writing on the general price list (in a recent FTC secret shopper survey, about 25% of funeral homes checked did not fulfill this or other requirements of The Funeral Rule).
- 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 charge a fee or refuse to handle a casket you bought elsewhere.
- A funeral provider that offers cremations must make alternative cremation containers available (basically a cardboard box, instead of making you buy a more expensive wooden casket).
The FTC has related information online in a series of articles that explain consumer rights, describe types of funeral products and services, and help shoppers compare providers. Both Shopping for Funeral Services and Paying Final Respects are available as free PDF downloads. The FTC has compliance information for people in the funeral industry at business.ftc.gov/funerals.
- Compare prices from at least two funeral homes. Remember that you can supply your own casket or urn.
- Ask for a price list. The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.
- Resist pressure to buy goods and services you don’t really want or need.
- Avoid emotional overspending. It’s not necessary to have the fanciest casket or the most elaborate funeral to properly honor a loved one.
- Recognize your rights. Laws regarding funerals and burials vary from state to state. It’s a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional.
- Apply the same smart shopping techniques you use for other major purchases. You can cut costs by limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral, and by dressing your loved one in a favorite outfit instead of costly burial clothing.
- Shop in advance. It allows you to comparison shop without time constraints, creates an opportunity for family discussion, and lifts some of the burden from your family.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).