Washington, D.C. – Only one-quarter of consumers surveyed (25%) know that funeral homes are required to provide price quotes over the phone and an itemized price list at the funeral home. Only five percent of consumers are aware that funeral homes are required to accept a casket provided by the bereaved without charging a handling fee.
These are two findings of an online consumer knowledge survey of 2,009 representative Americans commissioned by the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA), and undertaken by ENGINE (formerly ORC International) on November 18-22, 2020.
“It is understandable that consumers who rarely purchase funeral services are not aware of well-established consumer protections,” said Josh Slocum, FCA’s Executive Director.
Free Pamphlet Provides Key Money-Saving Tips
To better inform consumers about their funeral rights, FCA and CFA are releasing a free pamphlet titled, Planning a Funeral: 5 Key Tips. These tips include:
- Talk It Out Ahead of Time: Tough decisions about cremation or burial, venue of any memorial services, and related issues can be resolved without the pressures of immediate disposition of the body.
- Know Your Rights: The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule provides specific rights including an itemized price list, a written price estimate, and acceptance of your casket without a handling fee.
- Shop Around: Comparing prices at area funeral homes can lower costs by as much as 50 percent.
- Keep It Simple: The typical cost of a full funeral is $7,360, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, yet in most areas a cremation without extras can cost only $800-$1,200
- Avoid Expensive Extras: Most funeral homes offer dozens of service options, including sealed caskets, that may not provide you with value.
“Planning a funeral ahead of time can reduce costs by well over 50 percent and provide peace of mind,” said Stephen Brobeck, a CFA senior fellow.
The pamphlet is being distributed by FCA’s local and state affiliates. It is also available for free online on either the FCA or CFA website.
Survey Findings Support Online Price Disclosure
The Federal Trade Commission is currently considering whether to revise its Funeral Rule. FCA and CFA, among other groups, have argued that this revision should include requiring funeral homes to post their price lists online.
“Online prices could be easily compared, obviating the need to visit a number of funeral homes to collect price lists,” said Slocum. “One cannot expect a recently bereaved family under pressure to make quick decisions to take the time and effort to visit several funeral homes,” he added.
The value of easier access to funeral home price lists was suggested by the FCA/CFA survey finding that only 17 percent of the 2,009 respondents correctly thought that direct cremation of the body is usually available for less than $1,200. Fifteen percent thought the low price was usually above $2,400, and 38 percent said they did not know.
“Online price lists would dramatically increase a consumer’s ability to cut funeral costs,” said Brobeck. “Online posting of an existing price list would cost funeral homes a trivial amount,” he added.
Older Persons are Least Informed about Funeral Rights
Only 15 percent of those 65 years and older know that funeral homes are required to provide price quotes over the phone and a price list at the home, and 60 percent said they did not know the answer to this question. In contrast, nearly 30 percent of those aged 18-54 knew the correct answer. Moreover, 76% of older persons surveyed said they did not know whether funeral homes were required to accept a casket provided by the bereaved without charge.
“We were surprised to learn that older persons are least aware of their funeral rights because they are the age group most likely to confront funeral-related decisions,” said Slocum.
The survey data and method are available on request to any member of the news media.