The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says funeral providers need to improve the accuracy of the information they provide to consumers. End-of-life planning is stressful enough as it is, but after studying how some funeral and cremation service providers conduct business, the FTC is reminding consumers that its “Funeral Rule” requires funeral providers to give potential customers accurate information.
On Monday, the FTC announced it had filed a lawsuit alleging that Legacy Cremation Services, LLC, Funeral and Cremation Group of North America, LLC, and their owner violated the Funeral Rule by misleading consumers about their location and prices, as well as withholding the remains of loved ones to extract payment.
Misleading ads, locations, and prices
According to the FTC, Legacy’s online ads make it look like it provides cremation services in thousands of cities and towns. However, it says that isn't the case.
“In fact, Legacy doesn’t own or operate a single crematory,” the agency said in a news release. “Its staff take customers’ information, give price quotes, and then — often without clear notice to families — arrange for third party crematories and funeral homes to pick up loved ones’ remains and perform cremations.”
FTC officials said the third parties often aren't even located where Legacy says it operates. It also accused the company of not telling families the names or locations of crematories and funeral homes.
In some instances, the lawsuit alleges that if Legacy is unable to locate a funeral provider in the location the consumer wants, it might secure services in other locations (at times up to two hours away) instead without first consulting with the consumer. When that happens, FTC officials say consumers are forced to travel for viewings, pick up their loved one’s remains, or have the remains shipped to them.
The FTC also contends that Legacy makes false claims about its prices.
“People rarely — if ever — get cremation services for the price Legacy quotes when they call, or for $695, which is the low end of prices Legacy lists on its website,” the agency wrote. “At times, when people complained about price increases, Legacy threatened — or refused — to return cremated remains until they paid the higher prices.”
Know what to ask for when looking for funeral services
The FTC says consumers should always look for reviews from other people when shopping for a funeral provider to see what kind of experience they can expect from a company. The first step consumers should take is to search the business’ name online with other words like "review" to see what comes up.
When talking to a funeral or cremation service provider, consumers should also ask what’s included in the price that's quoted.
“If a provider won’t answer your questions or give you required information, look somewhere else,” the FTC stated. The agency says consumers should also report these kinds of problems at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
There are other things that people in this situation should know and consider as well. ConsumerAffairs has prepared a guide on funerals and cremation services that outlines everything from planning ahead for an end-of-life service to discounts and special privileges available to families of veterans.