In 1984 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) implemented the Funeral Industry Practices Trade Regulation Rule, commonly known as the Funeral Rule. The purpose of the Funeral Rule is to ensure that accurate itemized price information is available for funeral goods and services, creating a more open and transparent relationship between the consumer and the funeral business. It makes it possible for you to compare prices among funeral homes, choose only those goods and services you want or need, and pay only for those you select.
The Funeral Rule gives you the right to:
• Obtain a General Price List (GPL) when you visit a funeral home.
The funeral home must give you a General Price List (GPL) that is yours to keep. It lists all the items and services the home offers, and the cost of each one. This rule applies to anyone, not just potential customers entering the funeral home.
• Get price information on the telephone.
Funeral directors must give you price information on the telephone if you ask for it. You don’t have to give them your name, address, or telephone number first. Although they are not required to do so, many funeral homes mail their price lists, and some post them online.
• Get an explanation of the itemized prices on the GPL by the funeral director.
This right allows you to comparison shop and select only those goods and services you wish. While packages may be offered, they may only be in addition to—not instead of—itemized pricing.
• Select ONLY those goods and services that you desire.
You have a right to choose only those goods and services that you want or can afford. For instance, you may select a simple casket over a more expensive one or even a less costly cremation casket for an earth burial. You do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want.
• See a written casket price list (CPL) before you see the actual caskets.
Often, detailed casket price information is on a separate casket price list rather than on the GPL. All caskets and alternative containers, whether for burial or cremation, must be listed on the same CPL, and you have the right to study the CPL before discussing any options or seeing any caskets.
• Use an “alternative container” (simple box) instead of a casket for cremation.
A funeral home that offers cremations must explain that you have the right to an alternative container (generally unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard, cardboard) and must make them available. The GPL must include a price quote for a cremation with a container purchased from the funeral home and one for cremation where you provide your own container.
• Decline embalming.
Many funeral homes require embalming when a viewing is chosen, though in most cases refrigeration is actually an acceptable alternative. Consumers have the right to choose direct cremation or immediate burial without a viewing, for which no preservation is required. If the disposition is delayed beyond 48 hours after death, a funeral home without refrigeration may insist on embalming.
• Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere.
The funeral provider cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn you bought online, at a local casket store, or somewhere else — nor charge you a fee to do it. The funeral home cannot require you to be there when the casket or urn is delivered to them.
• Opt for direct cremation or immediate burial.
The GPL must include prices for direct cremation and immediate burial, the simplest type of funeral arrangements. Both are without viewing, embalming, visitation or other ceremony with the body present.
• See a written outer burial container price list.
Outer burial containers are not required by state law anywhere in the U.S., but many cemeteries require them to prevent the grave from caving in. If the funeral home sells containers, but doesn’t list their prices on the GPL, you have the right to look at a separate container price list before you see the containers. There are two types of outer containers — grave liners and coffin vaults — and both satisfy cemetery requirements. However, coffin vaults can cost at least twice as much. You have the right to choose the less expensive grave liner.
• Receive a written statement of your choices before you buy.
The funeral director must give you a statement listing all goods and services you have selected, the price of each, and the total cost, immediately after you make your arrangements.
• Get an explanation of any legal cemetery or crematory requirement. If there are legal requirements by the cemetery or crematory that require you to buy any particular funeral goods or services, the funeral home’s written statement must explain these requirements.
• Have funeral goods or services accurately represented without false or misleading statements.
Caskets and outer burial containers with warranties may not be worth the extra cost, and the funeral director is prohibited from stating that certain caskets or coffin vaults will delay the natural decomposition of human remains indefinitely.
Don’t be taken advantage of or pay more than you need to! Know your rights!