FTC Funeral Rule comment period ends. . . what’s next?

The Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) “Funeral Rule” is up for review this summer and the comment period for public opinion into the rule ended on Monday.  So, now that that period is over. . what comes next?

First, a little review on the Funeral Rule.  According to the Federal Register of the Federal Trace Commission and its reasoning for the review, that you can see here, the FTC issued the Funeral Rule in 1982 and it became fully effective on April 30, 1984.  The rule was amended effective July 19, 1994, and is up for review again in 2020.

Again, according to the Federal Register review background the Funeral Rule’s goal is “to lower barriers to price competition in the funeral goods and services market and to facilitate informed consumer choice. The Rule helps to achieve these goals by ensuring that: (1) Consumers have access to sufficient information to permit them to make informed decisions; (2) consumers are not required to purchase goods and services that they do not want and are not required by law to purchase; and (3) misrepresentations are not used to influence consumers’ decisions.

The FTC specifically has asked questions such as:

  1. Is there a continuing need for the Rule?
  2. What benefits has the Rule provided to consumers?
  3. Does the Rule impose any significant costs on consumers?
  4. What benefits has the Rule provided to businesses?
  5. Does the Rule impose any significant costs, including costs of compliance, on businesses, including small businesses?

Finally, in this review it appears that the FTC is pretty well focused on online and electronic price list information as one of the general questions that is asked is, “Should all funeral providers be required to post their itemized General Price Lists, Casket Price Lists, and Outer Burial Price Lists online?”

In a related article written by Ann Carrns of The New York Times and republished by the Seattle Times that you can read here, she indicates that the coronavirus and the FTC review may help push the funeral business into the internet age.

According to Carrns, “Consumer advocates and members of the public are urging the Federal Trade Commission. . .to make online pricing mandatory.”  In a sign that may be coming, FTC Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter said in a statement, “The rule is showing its age and needs updating to protect uniquely vulnerable consumers,” according to the article.

Others have indicated that online pricing, when mentioning the coronavirus, “would allow families to consider options and compare prices in the safety of their own homes without feeling pressured.”

On the flip side of those opinions is one shared by many funeral home owners that selection of a funeral home is many times based on family heritage, familiarity, and location.  Many funeral home owners believe they are uniquely positioned to give great service to client families and prices don’t tell that entire story.

Finally, it was noted by the FTC that over 700 people, groups, and/or companies have submitted comments by the June 15 deadline for comments.

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