Funeral homes step in to assist grieving families as they lay their loved ones to rest. In the United States, thousands of families mourn the death of a loved one every single day of the week. Families find comfort in funeral home directors who show understanding and concern at a time when they are still reeling from the news. The directors are typically skilled and empathetic as they walk families through the painful process of picking out a casket, and ordering a headstone.
But to be clear, funeral homes at the end of the day are a business. Hence the staff understands that the sale of services and products brings in money. As such, you as a consumer should understand the regulations so you don’t make hasty decisions during an emotional time.
The Federal Trade Commission passed a rule in 1984 to ensure that vulnerable consumers are not pressured into buying more than they want, or can afford. Read below to find out what rights you have when making funeral arrangements.
Funeral Home Rule
Access to price information – The funeral home is obligated to give you a written, itemized price list. You have a right to see this list before looking at any products. Some homes may keep price lists for caskets and outer burial containers. Ask for these lists if you don’t see them listed on the itemized price sheet.
You also have a right to access price information over the phone.
Receive a written statement summarizing your purchase before payment – Consumers are entitled to see an itemized purchase list before rendering payment. This list should include the price of every good and service agreed to, as well as the final total price.
This list should also explain any legal requirements that require you to purchase specific good and services.
You don’t have to buy a package – You have the right to buy what you want and nothing else. You do not have to accept packages that include items that are of no interest to you.
Buy your casket or urn from a third party – The funeral service provider may not refuse to serve you if you provide your casket or urn. It also may not charge you a handling fee or require you to be present for delivery.
Use an alternative container for cremation – Federal and state laws do not require caskets for cremation. If you would like to cremate your loved one in a casket, you have every right to do that. However, you are entitled to know what alternative container options are available to you. Each establishment may offer different options ranging from an unfinished wood box to cardboard.
Embalming is not required in every case – Routine embalming is not required by any state. Ask what options are available if you do not want your loved one embalmed.
What to do if a funeral home takes advantage of you
File a complaint with the FTC – The FTC does not resolve individual complaints. However, information received from consumers helps the FTC detect fraud and decide where and how to investigate. The FTC Complaint Assistant is easy to use. You can find it here.
File a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau – The BBB handles complaints related to the purchase of services and products. Most complaints are resolved within 30 days of submission. Personally, I filed complaints with the BBB several times, and I always walk away happy.
Talk to your State Attorney General – If enough complaints are lodged against the same funeral home, the State Attorney General may step in to protect consumers.