The FTC Funeral Rule - ICFA Whining (letter)

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ICFA letteR

ICFA
1895 Preston White Drive
Reston, VA 20191

April 1999

Re: 1999 Government and Legal Fundraising Campaign

Dear 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.

Sincerely,

Irwin W. Shipper, CCE
Chairman
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.



Last Updated ( Monday, 25 August 2008 13:47 )  
Comments (21)
1 Sunday, 12 October 2008 16:36
I work for a local Hospice. We have a patient who will have her funeral and burial in Alabama, but she is currently living with her son in Michigan. Her son wants to know if he can transport the casket from Michigan to Alabama himself in his pick up truck. I would assume the answer is no, but I have not been able to find any information on this. He has a quote of $5000 to prepare the body and transport across the states. Thank you for your help. Juanita L. Signs, ACSW, LCSW, LMSW
2 Monday, 13 October 2008 07:54
Juanita,

I hope you know that you left a comment on the site, that you didn't write to us directly and provide an email address that we could write back to you with.

The family can transport the casket, but they'll have to get a funeral director's signature on the death cert. in Michigan. I can give you all the details, but it would be much easier in an email exchange with you. Please write to me directly at josh@funerals.org.

Josh Slocum
3 Wednesday, 05 August 2009 15:18
Rev. James Monk
I am writing from personal experience and from observations of funerals I have performed as a minister.
I rememeber my Grandmother spening over $10,000 dollars to bury her hysband years ago, because they talked to her alone and told her all kind of lies. She was a poor person of age. I have preached many funerals where I have seen families spend 5 and 6 times what was needed because the funeral home told them it was the only way to protect their love one from bad thing in the grave.
I know of funeral homes in Oakdale, louisiana and other towns around that will not use the cheaper wood or box funerals. I know of some that would refuse and transfer the body to another funeral home because they could not make the amont of money they wanted.
Something needs to be done in Louisiana to stop poor people from being taken advantage of in these ways. It breaks my heart to preach a funeral where I see how the family is treated so badly. I know they must make money, but not what they make today. They sell 6 or 8 thousand dollar funerals thet cost them less then $1200.00, this is terrible. If you can have any effect on Louisiana funeral homes please use every bit of your authority to do so.
4 Wednesday, 05 January 2011 13:48
Tim Trahan
I hold an embalmer/funeral director license in Louisiana, and have previously been licensed in Texas since 1992. I am no longer active in the funeral scam,...I mean business. The FTC's regulations regarding funeral homes are regularly circumvented in the most obvious ways. At David Funeral Homes in New Iberia and surrounding areas, customers are not charged more for providing a casket from outside the funeral home, but they are charged less for purchasing their casket from the funeral home. What's the difference?
Also, the owner of Warren Meadows Funeral Home in Many, LA makes a practice of telling customers that a casket made of copper or bronze (obviously more expensive) will preserve human remains longer than will steel or wood caskets. His one word explanation ("AIR") defies logic and all ethical concerns.
Until these firms are forced to stick to the letter and intent of the law, consumers will continue to be ripped off by unsound practices.
5 Thursday, 24 March 2011 20:38
shirley maulden
is there a federal law that says we must move to another state before we can receive a refund on the casket and vault, we are moving to another state and our cemetery people have told us we cant be re imbursed for these things until we move out of this state we need the finances now so we can move, could give me and answer on this soon we would like to move in July
6 Thursday, 24 March 2011 21:36
Josh Slocum, FCA exec. director
Hi Shirley,

There is no such federal law preventing you from getting a refund unless you move out of state. If you want to email me directly with the details (including your location, etc.), send it to josh@funerals.org and I'll try to help you work it out.
7 Sunday, 19 June 2011 11:41
Dianne
Josh - Do you know of any way to prepare or insure a loved one for return home after death? My grandmother is moving to Texas from Arkansas for her last years, but wants to be returned and buried next to my grandfather. Her expenses there are all pre-paid, but we're concerned about being able to take care of this aspect.

Thanks.
8 Thursday, 15 September 2011 11:44
FD USA
Now that the market is/has changed to cremation, will the FTC FORCE the funeral homes to accept urns to??? The funeral home is the one that bares the high overhead operating cost. This rule should go away!!!

FD USA
9 Thursday, 15 September 2011 22:30
Josh Slocum, Executive Director
Funeral homes already have to accept urns - the FTC Rule applies to all merchandise, not just caskets. I'd hate to think you didn't already know this, and that you've told families they have to buy an urn from you.
10 Monday, 23 July 2012 10:54
Maggie
I recently attended a funeral in Nebraska. We returned to the cemetery a couple hours after the burial. We found the grave still open and no one was at the cemetery. The vault was sealed, but no dirt had been filled in to cover the vault. We thought this was very disrectful? Was it also against the law? Is this a common practice?
11 Monday, 23 July 2012 11:26
Josh Slocum, FCA Exec. Director
Hi there,

No, there is no law that says a grave has to be immediately filled in. It's not uncommon for the job to wait a few hours as the cemetery staff may have other graves to fill in (they also could have been taking a break-I don't know what time of day it was). Since the vault lid was placed the casket wasn't exposed for anyone to see. I'm sorry that you found it upsetting, but it doesn't appear to me that anyone did anything negligent or wrong.
12 Wednesday, 05 September 2012 16:26
Vanessa
Can I be buried on my own rural land?
13 Friday, 07 September 2012 15:17
MMassey
If a party wants to be cremated, is it possible to rent a casket for viewing for one
day, and then the body be placed into a travel container to go to the
cremation location for handling. It seems like such a waste in this date and time to pay for a casket in the thousands that is suposed to be burned, I have my doubt that even happens. Do you have advise for this process, or laws that
protect the public from paying for a casket that could be returned to the
funernal palo for re-sale.
14 Friday, 07 September 2012 15:36
Josh Slocum, FCA Exec. Director
Yes, you can certainly rent a casket and then just use the cardboard box to transport to the crematory. Rental caskets are expensive, though, upwards of $900. A real rip off. It's often cheaper to go with the cardboard box and drape it with a lovely quilt or cloth.
15 Monday, 17 September 2012 13:36
That Guy
Sup
16 Friday, 02 May 2014 20:17
Curious
This nonagenarian wishes his minimum cost cremation/remains disposal be observed in case of death while travelling. Have DNR and POLST ID bracelet. Am prepared to prepay expenses if there is a national clearinghouse.
20140502 15:16HST
17 Friday, 20 June 2014 23:10
walter newsome
I want to be cremated and only have a coffee can as an urn, is this possible? I want a visitation and funeral(burying of the coffee can) to be done by my family and friends after cremation. Can anyone offer advice or resources? I have a burial policy, but I want most of that money to go to my family for a death celebration/vacation. Is there somewhere I can obtain the required forms (death registration, body disposal decree, etc) and all the steps to meet Alabama law so NOBODY gets the money except cremator.
18 Sunday, 22 June 2014 10:35
Josh Slocum, Exec. Director
Hi Walter,

You can absolutely do what you want. There are no laws governing urns, coffee cans, family-directed burials of urns, or celebrations.

For all the rule and laws in Alabama in plain English, including the forms you'd need, check out Final Rights, the book I co-wrote. If you want the Alabama chapter all by itself without buying the book (the book you can find in the library, too), see your bookstore on the horizontal menu at the top of funerals.org.
19 Thursday, 10 July 2014 11:59
Abby
Can some one put the casket in the back of a pickup truck and drive it to the grave site?
20 Tuesday, 16 September 2014 15:26
greg
can I transport my uncles body 600 miles? a FH in Louisiana want to charge $3200 to drive his body after he's been embalmed, what qualifies you to transport a dead body
21 Wednesday, 05 November 2014 16:40
Liz
I purchased my preneed property in 1997 which I thought was paid off. No mention at that time that additional costs would be pending or I would have paid it. I just found out that further expenses are expected by this memorial park in California. An additional $6,525.00 for using the chapel, flowers, etc. is expected. I paid in 1997 about $3,500 for the property. I thought the $3,500 was payment in full. I think the proper thing for this memorial park to do is give me the going rate in 1997 for the additional services. What do you think?

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