FTC settles with NY company over Funeral Home Rule violation

ID-10040123Funeral arrangements are the last thing most of us want to think about as we go about our daily lives. Unfortunately though, there are funeral homes who will take advantage of grieving relatives when selling caskets and other items.

The Federal Trade Commission just received a $32,000 settlement from a New York-based funeral home and its director for violating the FTC’s Funeral Rule. The rule requires funeral homes to provide information consumers with itemized price lists when they start in-person discussions of funeral arrangements, caskets, and/or outer burial containers. The rule also requires funeral homes to give price information over the phone on request and prohibits them from requiring the purchase of any item as a condition of obtaining any other funeral product or service.

At the FTC’s request, Harrison Funeral Home Inc. in Harrison, N.Y., and John Balsamo were charged in May 2012 with allegedly violating the Funeral Home Rule by failing to provide an itemized general price list at the start of in-person discussions about funeral arrangements; failing to provide a casket price list at the beginning of discussions about caskets; and failing to give an outer burial container price list at the start of discussion about outer burial containers. An amended complaint was filed in October 2012 after FTC staff posing as consumers sought to make funeral arrangements from the business.

The consent decree requires the defendants to pay a $32,000 civil penalty, and prohibits them from violating the Funeral Rule.

BBB has the following advice for consumers seeking funeral arrangements:

  • Shop in advance. Check with at least two funeral homes and compare prices. It allows you to comparison shop without time constraints, creates an opportunity for family discussion, and lifts some of the burden from your family. Remember you can supply your own casket or urn.
  • Ask for a price list. Funeral homes are required to give you written price lists for products and services.
  • Resist pressure. Don’t give in to pressure to buy goods and services you don’t really want or need.
  • Don’t overspend based on emotions. Get the appropriate funeral for your loved one. That doesn’t necessarily mean buying the fanciest casket or the most elaborate funeral.
  • Know your rights. Laws regarding funerals and burials vary from state to state. It’s a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional.