Funeral homes have been warned to comply with federal regulations after the Federal Trade Commission conducted its first undercover phone sweep and found multiple violations of the agency’s so-called “Funeral Rule.”
The rule is meant to allow bereaved customers to compare prices between funeral homes and select only the desired arrangements. As part of the rule, funeral directors must give consumers price information over the phone if it is requested. Consumers can also request a written, itemized price list at a funeral home and see a written casket price list before viewing caskets. The rule also states that customers can use their own casket or container at a funeral home.
The phone sweep conducted by the FTC found that 39 funeral homes were violating the rule, including some that were failing to provide accurate price information or any price information at all, according to a news release from the agency.
Warning letters were sent to the 39 funeral homes, the FTC said. The letters reiterate the funeral rule and warn that failing to comply with it can result in penalties of up to $51,744 per violation.
The phone sweep was the first such operation conducted by the FTC. Throughout 2023, investigators and other FTC staff from across the country placed undercover calls to more than 250 funeral homes in the United States. On the calls, FTC employees asked for price information.
On 38 of the calls, funeral homes either refused to answer questions about price or provided inconsistent pricing, the FTC said. On one call, the funeral home also misrepresented a local health code, telling investigators that remains had to be embalmed. Part of the FTC funeral rule is that consumers can make funeral arrangements without embalming. On another call, the list sent by the funeral home did not meet funeral rule requirements.
The full list of the funeral homes who received warning letters is available on the FTC’s website.