Washington, D.C. – Today the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) issued a report on the extent to which funeral homes post prices online, the importance of this posting, and the opportunity for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to update its Funeral Rule to require this posting. A May 2022 Ipsos survey of 2,009 representative Americans revealed that 75 percent favor, and only three percent oppose, mandatory price posting for funeral homes with websites.
The FTC’s Funeral Rule, first issued in 1984, requires funeral homes to maintain a detailed price list and to hand it to consumers visiting and discussing services with the funeral home. The report notes that this price disclosure has reduced deception and fraud but has not facilitated comparison shopping of relatively expensive funeral services purchased by consumers.
“Most consumers, especially those out-of-town or having to deal with a sudden death, cannot practically visit several funeral homes to pick up price lists,” said Joshua Slocum, FCA’s Executive Director and the report’s co-author. The Ipsos survey found that only 20 percent of 1,146 respondents who had helped plan a funeral said they had visited more than one funeral home to obtain price lists.
Only a small minority of funeral homes allow consumers to view their price lists on their websites and compare prices of more than one funeral home. In May 2022, FCA and CFA surveyed online disclosures of general price lists (GPLs) at 1,046 funeral homes with websites in 35 state capitals. Only 191 of these homes (18%), listed in the report’s appendix, posted their prices online.
The refusal of most funeral homes to post prices online also makes it difficult for third party information providers, such as consumer groups and journalists, to collect and compare price information. “Online price posting would benefit not just those consumers searching for price information, but also all consumers by encouraging price competition and discouraging funeral homes from charging exorbitant prices,” said Stephen Brobeck, a CFA Senior Fellow and the report’s co-author.
There were wide differences in the percentages of those posting prices among the 35 cities. In Sacramento, because California requires online posting, 70 percent of 45 funeral homes posted prices (30 percent chose to use a loophole in the law to avoid posting). In Helena (MT), three of four funeral homes posted prices, and in Topeka (KS), six of 14 funeral homes posted prices. On the other hand, no funeral homes posted prices in Dover (DE), Frankfurt (KY), Bismarck (ND), Pierre, (SD), Cheyenne (WY), Santa Fe (NM), and Jefferson City (MO).
As one moved from east to west in the sample, more funeral homes posted prices. In five of 19 cities (26%) east of the Mississippi River, but in seven of ten cities (70%) in Mountain and Pacific states, at least one-fifth of funeral homes posted prices. However, none of the 102 funeral homes in the sample that are affiliated with Dignity Memorial posted their prices. Dignity Memorial is owned by Service Corporation International (SCI), which controls about ten percent of approximately 19,000 funeral homes in the U.S.
FCA, CFA, and other consumer groups submitted comments to the FTC in response to the agency’s announcement in 2020 that it was considering updating the Funeral Rule to improve price competition. The FTC is still considering whether to initiate formal rule-making.
Despite the lack of easy access to price lists, FCA and CFA urge consumers to visit several consumer homes to obtain prices lists before choosing one. Earlier FCA and CFA surveys, as well as other research, have revealed differences in funeral prices of up to 400 to 500 percent for the same services.
FCA and CFA also urge consumers to consider patronizing funeral homes that post their price lists online. “Online price posting reveals whether a funeral home wishes to facilitate consumers knowing the price of their funeral services and allowing a comparison of those prices with the services of other funeral providers,” observed FCA’s Slocum.
Josh Slocum, FCA, Inc., 802-865-8300
Stephen Brobeck, CFA, firstname.lastname@example.org