Last Updated ( Monday, 21 July 2014 12:56 )
A press release from the Institute for Justice. The case is brought by funeral directors in Pennsylvania who challenged the state's outdated laws restricting funeral home ownership, barring the serving of food in funeral homes, and other rules that have kept out competition while protecting "legacy" funeral homes.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2014
CONTACT: Shira Rawlinson, (703) 682-9320 ext. 229
Does the U.S. Constitution Require Courts to Enforce Obsolete Laws that Lack Any Justification Today?
Institute for Justice asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear ‘changed circumstances’ case
Arlington, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice and a group of Pennsylvania funeral directors asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Heffner v. Murphy, a case with implications for every American. The question presented to the High Court is simple: When the government takes away your liberty today, does it need reasons that are valid today or is it enough that the law was valid when passed long ago, no matter how much the facts of the world may have changed?
In Heffner, a fed-up coalition of Pennsylvania funeral entrepreneurs sued the state to overturn obsolete laws dating to the early 1950s that prevent them from providing the best service and lowest prices to their customers. The federal trial court ruled that it was no longer constitutional for Pennsylvania to enforce these archaic laws due to indisputable advances in how the funeral industry now works. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the absence of a contemporary justification for a law was not “a constitutional flaw.” Instead, the appellate court ruled that all that matters is whether the law was “rational” when passed in 1952.
Heffner v. Murphy is important to every American because the constitutional rule at issue—called “rational-basis review”—determines the constitutionality of the overwhelming majority of laws, from occupational licensing to criminal statutes to environmental law to zoning and just about everything in between. Rational-basis review requires the government to have, at minimum, a rational reason for depriving someone of liberty.
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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 July 2014 14:32 )
We sent the following to Funeral Rule Coordinator Craig Tregillus at the Federal Trade Commission.
June 30, 2014
Funeral Rule Coordinator
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20580
Dear Mr. Tregillus,
This is a request for an advisory opinion on two issues related to the Funeral Rule:
1. The use of the phrase, “cremation if relevant” on General Price Lists (GPLs). This phrase is used in Complying With the Funeral Rule and has unintentionally confused funeral providers and consumers. Funeral Consumers Alliance contends it should be removed. We request that the FTC formally clarify that the phrase should not appear on General Price Lists.
2. The use of the phrase, “except in certain special cases,” which occurs in the embalming disclosure mandated by the Funeral Rule. The full disclosure reads,
AN INVITATION TO FUNERAL PRICING ABUSE
If we were to die Monday through Friday — with one funeral a day — and two weeks off for the mortician's vacation, the following chart shows the number of funeral homes that would be needed in each state, compared to the actual number. There are undoubtedly some funeral homes that can handle more than one funeral a day, which reduces the "needed" number accordingly and probably explains the figures for California, Hawaii, and Nevada.
Certainly in rural areas with sparse population, a funeral home does not expect the dying business to be a full-time one, and more establishments will be needed to cover the geographic area than the number generated by a simple death-rate formula. In most other states, however, the number of funeral homes far exceeds that which can be reasonably supported by the death-rate. (In Kansas, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, there are almost four times the needed mortuaries; in Iowa there are five times too many!)
Why are so many funeral homes still in business? Because of high mark-ups that consumers pay — either willingly or because they just don't know what their other options are. It's a situation that invites pricing abuse!
|How Many Funeral Homes Needed
||Existing Funeral Homes
||Needed Number of Funeral Homes
|Number of funeral homes needed=1 funeral/day, 5 days/wk, 50 wks/yr
|Death data from 2012. FH data from 2013
Last Updated ( Monday, 07 July 2014 13:38 )
The Federal Trade Commission has revised two extremely helpful documents for funeral consumers. Even better, they're available in Spanish, too. Check out El último adiós and Compra de servicios fúnebres. FCA Affiliates—Note that you can order paper versions of these in bulk, free, from the FTC. You can also (and should) host these new pamphlets directly on your site.
The Federal Trade Commission, 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.
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.
You can order the publications at ftc.gov/bulkorder. 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. The FTC has compliance information for people in the funeral industry at business.ftc.gov/funerals.
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). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.
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