|The FTC Funeral Rule|
|Letter to the FTC|
|ICFA Whining (letter)|
|FCA Comments: Trade Regulation Rule on Funeral Industry Practices|
|Sudden Boycott: A letter to the FTC|
1895 Preston White Drive
Reston, VA 20191
Re: 1999 Government and Legal Fundraising CampaignDear ICFA member:
I am not an alarmist by nature and I don't believe in encouraging contributions by using a "sky is falling" type of approach. So let me just explain to you some of the issues we are facing this year and let you judge for yourself.
- The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, has been asked by two Congressional committees to explore the prevalence of sales abuses in our industry. GAO staff have met with consumer advocates, regulatory staff, and industry representatives in the five states, including ICFA staff, and will publish a report this fall detailing their findings and recommendations.
- The Senate Special Committee on Aging, one of the committees requesting the GAO investigation, plans to call public hearings later this year if the GAO report suggests the existence of major consumer problems in our industry.
- Coinciding with the above, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is initiating its review of the Funeral Rule to determine the need for making amendments. The FTC will be seeking comments on issues such as expanding the goods and services required to be listed on the General Price List, the prohibition on charging a casket handling fee, and most importantly, whether the Rule should be expanded to cover cemeteries and other sellers.
So what do you think? I feel it is no exaggeration to say that never before in history has our industry been subjected to so much scrutiny by the federal government. And never before have so many organizations, including consumer groups, media, even some of our own industry trade associations, been so eager to impose burdensome new laws and regulations on us based only upon isolated, anecdotal instances of abuse.
The ICFA response has been swift and sure. We have already met with staff from the GAO, the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and the FTC. We have provided them documentation, voluminous in the case of the GAO, to make certain that our side of the story is told loud and clear. We have given them studies and surveys, both ours and those from other groups, to show them the big picture and to demonstrate the unreliability of anecdotal evidence.
This, of course, is just the beginning of what will be a long and sustained effort on our part. On just the issue of expanding the FTC Funeral Rule to cemeteries, we literally stand alone. To date, every other organization that has publicly declared a position on this issue has come out in favor of expanding the Funeral Rule to cover cemeteries.
All of our efforts must continue well into next year and will require constant attention and participation from the ICFA, its staff and its members. Right now the best way you can help the ICFA to help you is to make a contribution to the 1999 Government and Legal Fundraising Campaign.
I hope you will agree and join over 90 percent of the IDFA members who have supported—and continue to contribute to—the Government and Legal Fund. As in the past, we have suggested a modest contribution of 50 cents per case or interment, including cremation, multiplied by your total cases or interments last year, with a suggested minimum contribution of $125 per location.
Frankly, we don't know where all these inquiries and hearings are headed—but with the ICFA on top of these issues, we are confident of achieving our goal—provided we have your support. Your contribution to the Government and Legal Fund will help make that goal a reality. Thanks in advance for your generosity—an invoice and return envelope are enclosed for your convenience. Please contribute today.
Irwin W. Shipper, CCE
Government and Legal Affairs Committee
and Fundraising Committee
[Mr. Shipper is an executive with The Loewen Group.]
One really has to wonder why Mr. Shipper is so concerned. The FTC Funeral Rule has pretty innocuous requirements. In summary:
- prices must be readily disclosed for all goods and services offered
- pertinent consumer rights must be disclosed, and
- industry folks may not lie to consumers nor force them to buy more than they want.
What ethical industry person could object to these? Yet Mr. Shipper states that such requirements would be "burdensome." Which ones, inquiring minds might want to know. He seems to admit that there have been "anecdotal" reports of abuse, but then dismisses those as "unreliable" even though some practices have been documented in written company policy or in widespread use by several of the conglomerates.