Washington, D.C. – Few funeral homes in 25 small- and medium-sized state capitals disclose useful price information online, according to the latest pricing report prepared by the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). Of 193 funeral homes with websites, only 30 (16%) posted the price information that the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule requires them to hand to customers who ask.
“In an era when the large majority of consumers use the Internet to shop, the FTC should extend the Funeral Rule disclosure requirement to funeral homes with websites,” said Josh Slocum, president of the Funeral Consumers Alliance. “The cost of posting an existing price list is insignificant,” he added.
Because of the failure of the FTC to act, California requires funeral homes to post their General Price Lists online, or to list 16 categories of funeral-related services on offer, noting that a price list is available on request. Not surprisingly, then, a survey of 25 Sacramento funeral homes with websites revealed that 18 (72%) posted their General Price List.
“In the absence of FTC action, states should consider requiring funeral home price disclosure on websites,” said FCA’s Slocum. “The California experience has shown that this posting places no burden on funeral homes and enhances market efficiency by facilitating price comparison,” he added.
Consumers strongly support this online price disclosure. In a 2017 phone survey conducted for CFA and FCA by ORC International, 79 percent of 1,000 representative Americans favored a requirement that funeral homes with websites disclose online the same price information they are required to make available in person.
Survey Focuses on Small- and Medium-Sized State Capitals
FCA and CFA surveyed 211 funeral homes within a 10-mile radius of 25 small- and medium-sized capital cities. Of these homes, 193 had active websites. The cities are Augusta ME, Baton Rouge LA, Bismarck ND, Boise ID, Charleston WV, Cheyenne WY, Concord NH, Des Moines IA, Dover DE, Frankfort KY, Harrisburg PA, Helena MT, Jackson MS, Jefferson City MO, Lansing MI, Montpelier VT, Olympia WA, Pierre SD, St. Paul MN, Salem OR, Salt Lake City UT, Santa Fe NM, Springfield IL, Tallahassee FL, and Topeka KS.
Funeral homes in some cities were notable for their refusal to post prices on their websites. None of 17 funeral homes with websites in Harrisburg PA posted prices. Nor did any of 14 homes in Baton Rouge LA or any of 10 homes in Topeka KS.
On the other hand, 4 of 7 funeral homes in Springfield IL posted prices, as did 3 of 5 homes in Olympia WA, 4 of 8 homes in Des Moines IA, and the only home in Montpelier VT.
Why Price Disclosure is Critically Important for Consumers of Funeral Services
The FCA/CFA report includes a quote, from the 1978 report recommending that the FTC require price disclosure, which contains a compelling argument for the Funeral Role that is as valid today as it was then.
- Grief-stricken, consumers are often dependent and disoriented.
- Consumers are under severe time pressure to make a decision about funeral arrangements.
- Consumers typically have no previous experience purchasing funeral services.
- As a result of these factors, consumers can easily make poor decisions about the funeral home selected and the specific services purchased.
“With easily available price information, consumers who today spend an average of more than $7,000 on a funeral could often lower that figure considerably,” said Stephen Brobeck, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America. “And just the availability of this information online would tend to restrain prices for all funeral services,” he added.
FCA and CFA recommend that consumers select a funeral home well in advance of an imminent death. In visiting homes, they should request a General Price List. If the list is not made available, FCA and CFA recommend purchasing services at another funeral home.
Contact: Joshua Slocum, FCA, 802-865-8300; Jack Gillis, CFA, 202-737-0766
FCA is a nonprofit federation of 70 local consumer education groups who help Americans learn about their legal rights and options in the funeral purchase. Founded in 1963 to give grieving consumers a voice, FCA is the only national charity dedicated to ending deceptive practices in the funeral sales transaction.
The Consumer Federation of America is a nonprofit association of more than 250 consumer groups that was founded in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education.