San Francisco — A survey of Orange County funeral homes reveals that six of the 61 homes with websites appear to violate a 2013 California law requiring all funeral homes with websites to post their “General Price List”, or to list 16 categories of service together with a note that a price list is available on request.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance of California, the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA), Consumer Action, and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) have written to the California Funeral and Cemetery Bureau urging the agency to investigate this issue and require compliance with the law. When the groups first surveyed compliance earlier this year, 23 funeral homes appeared to be violating the law. Knowledge of the consumer survey has apparently encouraged most of these homes to begin listing prices.
“It couldn’t be easier for a funeral home to comply with state law,” said FCA Executive Director Josh Slocum. “All funeral homes with websites have the capability to easily add their General Price List to the site.” Since 1984, the Federal Trade Commission has required all funeral homes to have available, for personal distribution, itemized price lists (called “General Price Lists”).
Forty-four Orange County funeral homes posted their General Price lists (see attached list). And 11 funeral homes listed the 16 categories of service with a note about the availability of their price list. “We commend the 44 funeral homes that post prices,” said Joe Ridout of Consumer Action. “These firms help Orange County consumers more easily shop for relatively expensive funeral services,” he added.
All of the 11 funeral homes that do not post prices, but appear to comply with the law, are owned by Dignity Memorial, the nation’s largest chain of funeral homes. Dignity Memorial is a brand name of Service Corporation International (SCI), which is traded on Wall Street. None of the several hundred Dignity Memorial funeral homes researched by FCA and CFA nationwide post prices online. FCA/CFA surveys show that Dignity-owned funeral homes are substantially more expensive than independent, local firms.
The average cost of a full-service funeral is more than $7,000, and surveys by CFA, FCA, and FCA affiliates reveal that there is wide variation in prices among funeral homes. Even simple, direct cremations can range in price from about $600 to more than $3,000. In addition to the financial burden, most consumers who purchase a funeral must do so under time pressure and in a state of emotional distress. “Ensuring that consumers could access price information online would ease the time and emotional pressures that they face,” said Jean Okuye, President of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of California.
FCA and CFA have petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to update the Funeral Rule to require posting of required price lists on their websites. In the meantime, they have begun to research funeral price posting in many cities and counties throughout the U.S. with particular focus on California. “Consumers who have suffered the unexpected death of a loved one cannot be expected to drive around to funeral homes to collect price lists,” said CFA senior fellow Stephen Brobeck. “It is very easy for funeral homes to ease this consumer burden by posting their existing price list,” he added.