My Prediction: Get ready to add mandatory online pricing



When the New York Times starts writing articles that include thoughts on the Federal Trade Commission’s “Funeral Rule” I think it is time to say that the issue has caught some attention.


My wife and I spend the months of January, February, and March in a rented condo in South Florida and after my workout on Saturday mornings I treat myself to what I term “Starbucks Saturday”.  I grab a newspaper, go to Starbucks, get a regular coffee (I’ve never warmed to the latte crowd) and spend an hour reading a hard copy newspaper cover to cover.  Last week I grabbed the New York Times and came upon an article entitled, “Funeral homes warned about correct costs”.  I cannot connect you to the article via link because the NYT’s electonic editions are hid behind a pay wall.


However, the article tells of the recent Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) undercover phone sweep, which you should have heard of by now as it has been reported in several Death Care publications.  In essence it tells of more than 250 funeral homes who were called by the FTC and of 39 who were deemed to be in “non-compliance” with how they explained their prices to the phone shoppers.  Here’s a bulletin from the FTC on that situation, which by the way, names the funeral homes that were in non-compliance.


According to the NYT’s article, here’s what the FTC said about the situation, “The FTC didn’t recommend prosecution of the violations but asked the homes to take “prompt remedial action” to comply with the law, which in part requires funeral homes to give written price lists for products and services to people who visit in person, and to share pricing over the phone on request.  Homes that don’t comply risk penalties of more than $51,000 per violation, according to the warning letters.” 


As you may know, the “Funeral Rule”, enacted in 1984, has been under FTC review for some time with a new version expected to be released sometime in 2024.  Many people in Death Care expect that the new rule will require mandatory online price information.  Here’s a paragraph from the NYT’s article on another possible solution:


Christopher L. Farmer the general counsel of the funeral director association (NFDA), said in a phone interview that the group supported price transparency, but that funeral homes should be allowed to choose for themslves whether to disclose prices online.”


The New York Time’s article also had what I believe is a telling quotation from Melissa Dickey, described as an FTC lawyer and a co-coordinator of the “Funeral Rule”.  Here’s how she is quoted in the article, “It’s very important that consumers are able to comparison shop.  Not everyone can go in person to pick up a price list”.


Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

Funeral Director Daily take:  I think I have a pretty fair perspective on the issue and as a funeral business I’m all in favor of putting my prices online.  I happen to think in this day and age of online shopping and influencers, it is best to be pro-active about your pricing and modus operandi —  in essence, I think that is a great way to build business.  Being secretive, even more so than being higher priced than competitors, in what is now a more open environment of online pricing, in my opinion, is a great way to potentially lose market share.


But, much like the NFDA position, I think it is almost un-American to force businesses to do so.  I’m of the opinion that market forces will play out in the events where funeral homes have a choice to put or not to put their prices online.


However, I would advise funeral homes to get ready for mandatory pricing online. Sometimes you get in battles that don’t seem to be fair or impartial.  In the case of the “Funeral Rule” we seem to have one of the “Co-coordinators” who has a very determined opinion on the matter —  as per the quote, “It’s very important that consumers are able to comparison shop”.


So. . . my prediction —- get ready for mandatory online pricing. . . .it is coming.


A Solution —  The folks at Strategic Funeral Resources have developed online pricing guides in easy to read formats. They are some of the best I have seen.


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