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Pennsylvania funeral directors appeal to US Supreme Court

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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 The case is brought by funeral directors in Pennsylvania who challenged the state's outdated laws restricting funeral home ownership, barring the serving of food in funeral homes, and other rules that have kept out competition while protecting "legacy"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. 

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.
Last Updated ( Monday, 21 July 2014 12:56 ) Read more...

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 December 2015 14:42 )

We ask the FTC to rule on misleading language

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We sent the following to Funeral Rule Coordinator Craig Tregillus at the Federal Trade Commission. 

June 30, 2014
Craig Tregillus
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,

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 July 2014 14:32 ) Read more...

An Oversaturated Market 2014

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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
State Deaths Annually Existing Funeral Homes Needed Number of Funeral Homes
AK 3,728 20 15
AL 48,038 407 192
AZ 46,762 144 187
AR 28,916 279 116
CA 234,012 806 936
CO 31,465 182 126
CT 28,692 261 115
DC 4,672 27 19
DE 7,706 65 31
FL 173,791 831 695
GA 71,263 572 285
HI 9,617 21 38
ID 11,429 71 46
IL 99,931 1027 400
IN 56,743 575 227
IA 27,745 397 111
KS 24,502 313 98
KY 41,983 459 168
LA 40,667 274 163
ME 12,750 110 51
MD 43,325 270 173
MA 52,583 519 210
MI 88,021 651 352
MN 38,972 368 156
MS 28,965 345 116
MO 55,281 498 221
MT 8,827 70 35
NE 15,171 215 61
NV 19,623 52 78
NH 10,201 90 41
NJ 69,495 660 278
NM 15,931 73 64
NY 146,432 1579 586
NC 78,773 607 315
ND 5,944 68 24
OH 108,711 1086 435
OK 36,529 325 146
OR 31,890 165 128
PA 124,596 1585 498
RI 9,579 79 38
SC 41,614 386 166
SD 7,100 92 28
TN 59,578 414 238
TX 166,527 1128 666
UT 14,776 84 59
VT 5,380 56 22
VA 59,032 490 236
WA 48,146 179 193
WV 21,275 255 85
WI 47,308 496 189
WY 4,438 30 18
Number of funeral homes needed=1 funeral/day, 5 days/wk, 50 wks/yr
Death data from 2012. FH data from 2013 






Last Updated ( Friday, 24 October 2014 10:24 )

New from the FTC-en Espanol

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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 fúnebresFCA 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. 

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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 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

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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Last Updated ( Monday, 07 July 2014 13:38 )

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