News and Blogs

Monument Company Details Consumer Abuse, Urges Passage of Funeral Rule Reform

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1/10/2010—Cemetery consumers have complained to us for years about the strong-arm tactics they face at the graveyard. Today, we got a letter from Tom Gast, of Gast Monuments in Chicago, confirming once again the need to bring cemeteries under the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule. Gast's letter is addressed to Congressman Bobby Rush, and it urges Rush push for passage of his bill, HR3655, The Bereaved Consumer's Protection Act of 2009.

A few highlights from Gast's letter:

  • "The rules and regulations at many cemeteries have become so complex that a consumer could not possibly be expected to know what questions to ask in order to make an informed decision and cemetery personnel are not always forthcoming with all relevant information."
Last Updated ( Friday, 15 January 2010 13:24 ) Read more...

1 out of 4 Mass. Funeral Homes Violating FTC Funeral Rule

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11/25/2009 — The Massachusetts Division of Public Licensure has found 25 percent of funeral homes they inspected were illegally hiding prices from consumers. Click here for the report, and the names of the accused funeral homes (and hats off to the state for such diligent work, and for making the information public).

Last Updated ( Friday, 15 January 2010 13:25 ) Read more...

New Jersey Beefs up Cemetery Trusting - 2009

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11/23/2009 — Kudos to the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association for their work tightening protections consumers enjoy when prepaying for cemetery services. They succesfully pushed for a bill that would require cemeteries to deposit 100 percent of any money a consumer spends on cemetery services, such as opening/closing the grave, or the crematory fee. Consumers may also transfer that money to a new cemetery if they change their minds or move. NOTE - if you prepay for a grave or niche, the cemetery does not have to refund your money if you change your mind.
From a press release by NJSFDA:

Last Updated ( Monday, 23 November 2009 15:30 ) Read more...

Mausoleum Sued for Propping Open Caskets

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Mausoleums are marketed as a "clean and dry" alternative to burial. In reality, gases and fluids can build up (especially in so-called "sealer" caskets), leading sometimes to  leaks or even explosions that breach the crypt. Understandably, mausoleum owners would prefer caskets be vented so the remains dehydrate. Families-whose fears are exploited and stoked by businesses that sell them a bill of goods about "clean and dry" burial products - want their dead "safely" sealed up.


Colorado Passes Mixed Up Funeral Laws

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Colorado's HB 1202 was signed into law by the governor in summer, 2009. (See our earlier post about this troubling bill). While the final version did amend some of the most troubling provisions, the law remains murky and contradictory. The rights of families to care for their own dead without hiring commercial funeral homes are preserved. In addition, nonprofit organizations that educate and support families who choose home funerals are exempt from state oversight. But as always, the devil is in the details. . .

The Good:

  • Nonprofit organizations—such as FCA's chapter in Colorado, or Natural Transitions, a group that supports families who direct their own funerals—are exempt from registering with the state. This preserves their right to educate the public on how to prepare and care for their own dead privately.
  • People who merely sell funeral goods, such as caskets and urns, aren't required to undertake onerous and irrelevant mortuary training.

The Bad:

  • Sloppy grammar leads to confusion. The law says that "a person" can't "offer the services of" a "mortuary science practitioner" or "funeral director" unless that person is working out of a registered funeral establishment. But the next sentence says "Nor shall the funeral establishment sell or offer to sell funeral goods or funeral services to the public." So, what's being regulated - people or "establishments?"
  • Even worse, the definition of "mortuary science practitioner" (remember, this is a category that requires registration and onerous training under the law) includes anyone who "arranges, directs, or supervises funerals, memorial services, or graveside services." Will your preacher be cited for illegally acting as a "mortuary science practitioner?" Will a secular celebrant be charged with illegal practice for renting a room, planning a buffet, and delivering a eulogy?

The Baffling — Colorado now has the most draconian training and apprenticeship standards for funeral workers of any state. Contrary to the claims of industry trade groups, these aren't just requirements that apply to people who "represent themselves" as "having certain professional titles." The law states that no one can offer the services of any of these professional designations without registering with the state, and the clear implication is that anyone who actually performs these services has to meet these ridiculously high standards:

  • Anyone who calls himself a "mortuary science practioner" has to have at least 2,000 hours (50 weeks) practicing or interning, and has to have graduated from a mortuary school (a dubious achievement, given their low standards).
  • Anyone who calls himself a funeral director must have 2,000 hours of practice or interning, and have directed 50 funerals or graveside services.
  • Anyone who calls himself an embalmer must have spent 4,000 hours (almost two years!) interning, on at least 50 bodies.
  • Anyone who calls himself a "cremationist" must have cremated at least 50 bodies. Um, we're sorry to sound crude, but cremating dead people is not rocket science, and it should not take 50 attempts to learn how to turn on the crematory and pulverize the remains to return them to the family.
Last Updated ( Friday, 15 January 2010 13:25 )

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