Families making funeral arrangements for a loved one are often in the dark when it comes to pricing services.
While consumers can easily compare prices of most products and services by scanning the web, a new survey finds that's not the case when it comes to a consumer’s final purchase.
A report produced jointly by the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) contains a survey of the prices and price disclosures of a representative sample of 150 funeral homes from ten different regions of the country.
Where price information was available, the researchers found it could vary by a wide margin. Depending on the region of the country, the report found a family might pay as little as $2,580 for a ful funeral service to as much as $13,800.
The Funeral Rule
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established the Funeral Rule in the 1980s, and updated it in the '90s, requiring funeral home operators to provide straightforward and transparent price data to consumers over the phone or when a consumer visits a funeral home in person.
Because the last update was in 1994, there is no mention of websites. Indeed, the researchers found only 25% of the 150 funeral homes in the survey disclosed prices online.
“Most funeral homes need to give consumers much better access to price information,” said Josh Slocum, FCA’s Executive Director. “The Federal Trade Commission should update antiquated disclosure rules developed in the pre-Internet 1980s, just as California has successfully done.”
California funeral homes are required to disclose on their websites the same prices the FTC requires funeral homes to disclose by phone or in an in-person visit. Thirteen of 15 surveyed California funeral homes fully disclosed prices on their websites.
Huge price range
“The huge price ranges for identical funeral services within individual areas indicate that these markets lack effective competition,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s Executive Director. “The lack of price competition is unfortunate given the relatively high cost of funeral services and the reluctance of many bereaved consumers to comparison shop for these services.”
The researchers say price disclosure is important because the costs of services vary so much. Also, there are different types of post mortem services that funeral homes provide. The reporrt priced three types of service:
- Direct cremation without ceremony
- Immediate burial without ceremony or the cost of a casket
- Full-service funeral including the basic services of the funeral director and staff, transport of the body from place of death to funeral home, embalming, other preparation of the body, viewing or calling hours, funeral ceremony with casket present, hearse to cemetery, sedan or limousine for family, and graveside ceremony.
Prices for the same funeral services within individual areas almost always varied by at least 100% and often varied by more than 200%. For example, direct cremation in Atlanta could cost as little as $850 or as much as $3,640.
FCA and CFA are submitting their research to the FTC in hopes the agency will move to update the Funeral Rule.