PhotoWhen a family is confronted with the loss of a loved one, whether suddenly or after a lingering illness, it must make final arrangements, either for burial or cremation. Often it's a big expense.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) say funeral homes, by and large, do not provide enough pricing information online. The two groups this week called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to amend its Funeral Rule to require important funeral price information to be posted on funeral home websites.

In issuing a joint statement, the two groups noted that this week's Prime Day allowed millions of consumers to compare prices for a huge range of products and save a lot of money.

“However, the most vulnerable consumers in the marketplace must spend thousands of dollars on a funeral and still cannot compare prices online,” the groups said in a joint statement. “Today, the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Consumer Federation of America urged the FTC to change the Funeral Rule so consumers can make an informed decision on one of the largest purchases they will ever make.”

30 year-old rule

The Funeral rule has been in place for over 30 years and was enacted to give basic price information to consumers planning a funeral. Under the rule, consumers have a right to a general price list when they inquire about funeral arrangements.

The rule specifically gives consumers the right to choose only the goods and services they want. If state law requires the purchase of a particular item, the price list must state that. A funeral home may not refuse, or charge extra, to handle a casket purchased elsewhere.

But the groups say consumers still need the ability to price shop when planning a funeral, and they maintain under current practice that that is often hard to do. While it is true that funeral homes are required to provide price information, it usually requires a face-to-face or telephone conversation.

Antiquated disclosure rules

“The Federal Trade Commission should update antiquated disclosure rules developed in the pre-Internet 1980s,” said Josh Slocum, Executive Director of Funeral Consumers Alliance. “Almost all funeral home websites feature stories on how the funeral home has been providing caring, compassionate service since the days of the horse and buggy but nothing about how much it actually costs.”

Today, Slocum says consumers shop for everything online. The fact that consumers are often emotionally vulnerable when they go through the process of shopping for funeral services makes it even more important for price information to be easily accessible.  

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