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This section of our web site is devoted to consumer information. It is our sincere hope that this information will serve to educate families on what to expect when making funeral arrangements, how the Federal Trade Commission funeral rule is designed to protect consumers, and how to make informed decisions at a very difficult time.

The Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule
Around 1985, the Federal Trade Commission Rule was drafted in order to standardize the way funeral services, and merchandise is purchased in the United States. The rule is designed to protect consumers by requiring all funeral homes to itemize their service charges and separate them from their charges for merchandise (caskets, vaults, urns etc.) and accommodation items (cemetery charges, minister’s stipends, flowers etc.) Prior to the rule, most funeral homes included the charges for their services with the casket selected. There are two basic problems with this pricing system. The first is that not every family wants to use all of the services a funeral home provides. Some families may not want to have a public visitation, or use all of the automobiles the funeral home offers etc. Under the old system there was no way to make deductions for the items of service a family did not require. Secondly, since the price of the funeral service was predicated on the casket selected, it was difficult for families to compare prices between funeral homes. Most consumers can’t look at a casket and know what material it is constructed from, which determines the price. The Federal Trade Commission rule solves these problems by itemizing all of the service charges and separating them from the merchandise. According to the rule, the total cost of a funeral service is broken down into three basic parts, Services, Facilities and Automobiles; Merchandise; (Casket, Vault, Paper Products) and Accommodation Items. There are also three documents, which every funeral home must have, and share with the consumer. These consist of, the General Price List, The Casket Price List and the Outer Burial Container Price List

General Price List
Under the funeral rule, every funeral home is required to have a general price list. The general price list must include the following categories. Basic Services of Funeral Director and Staff; Transfer of Remains to Funeral Home; Embalming; Other Preparation of the Body; Facilities Charges and Staff Services; and Automotive Equipment. The Trade Commission does not regulate what individual funeral homes charge for these categories. Therefore there can be substantial differences in service charges between funeral homes in the same area. The general price list must also include a price range for caskets; vaults; cremation urns; charges for paper products (register book, memorial folders and acknowledgement cards). Also included on the price list is the charge for Direct Cremations; Forwarding Remains to Another Funeral Home; and Receiving Remains From Another Funeral Home. A funeral home is required to give you a copy of their General Price List for your retention any time funeral arrangements are discussed in person. Funeral homes must also give you the information on the price list over the phone.

Casket Price List
Under the funeral rule, every funeral home is required to have a casket price list. This list should include every casket the funeral home offers for sale. The casket price list should list the material the casket is constructed from (20 ga. Steel, 18 ga. Steel, Solid Oak, 32 oz. Copper etc.) the manufacturers trade name and the type of interior (crepe or velvet) The funeral home is not required to let you retain the casket price list, but most funeral homes should let you keep a copy.

Outer Burial Container Price List
Under the funeral rule, every funeral home is required to have an outer burial container (Vault) price list. This list should include the manufacturer, the material it is made from, and the trade name (Monticello, Continental, Venetian etc.)

Price Comparisons
The Federal Trade Commission Rule allows consumers to compare prices between funeral homes due to the standardization of pricing structure throughout the country. Obviously, price comparisons must be done prior to need. As with any business or profession the old adage, “you get what you pay for” does not always hold true. The highest priced funeral home may not be the best. The prices a funeral home charges should not be the most important or only factor used to determine which firm to place your trust in. Experience, honesty, professional skill, facilities, and caring compassionate service should all be factored in. In order to compare prices between funeral homes, you need to consider the total price of the services and merchandise you require. Some funeral homes will have a higher than normal service charge but offer their merchandise at a lower price than a competing firm. Others may be just the opposite with a low service charge and higher merchandise charges. The best way to compare prices is to select the specific type of funeral service you are interested in (traditional funeral service; funeral service with visitation the same day; traditional cremation service; immediate cremation with memorial service; etc.) and determine the price for those services. Next, select the merchandise you are interested in, a specific casket; for example an 18 Ga. Steel Neopolitan Blue manufactured by Batesville Casket Company; and a Venetian burial vault manufactured by Wilbert Vault Company, or a Universal Urn, manufactured by Wilbert Vault Company etc. and make a direct comparison of the exact services and merchandise at another funeral home. This can be done in person or over the phone. Accommodation items should also be included in the total. These would include outside services that a funeral home agrees to pay for you. These items would include grave opening at the cemetery, minister, organist, vocalist stipends, luncheon expense, flowers, obituary notices, monument engraving etc. These items should be the same between firms unless the funeral home charges a fee for cash advances.

Packages
Under the funeral rule, funeral homes can package services as long as they itemize the individual charges on their price list. Look at these closely. Sometimes the package price will be higher than if you selected the items of service separately. This is especially common with cremation packages. The funeral home or cremation society may have an artificially low immediate cremation price but if you add any type of service, graveside, memorial etc. the price is higher than if you selected that particular service from the general price list.

If you have questions about any of the information presented here, please call or E-mail Mike Phillips at the funeral home.


 

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