Nearly 20 years ago, my high school’s “Prep for Life” class visited a local funeral home. The goal of the class “field trip” was to give us an idea of what a funeral costs.
I will never forget how our teenage jaws dropped when the funeral director showed us the $250 price tag on a casket-sized cardboard box. That was in 1997.
It’s no secret that funeral costs can be expensive. Worse yet, the price of a funeral can vary — sometimes by several thousand dollars — depending on where you’re planning the funeral and which funeral home you choose.
In an effort to help Americans make funeral decisions that don’t leave them buried in debt, two consumer groups are calling on the federal government to make funeral pricing more transparent by requiring that funeral homes post the prices of their services online.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance, in partnership with the Consumer Federation of America, filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission this week, urging the agency to update its 1984 Funeral Industry Practices Rule, also known as “The Funeral Rule,” to include a provision for mandatory internet price disclosure for funeral homes.
The rule already requires price disclosure by funeral homes, but only in person or over the phone.
The petition contends that requiring funeral homes to disclose service prices online would help decrease “inflated funeral prices” because consumers would have easier access to funeral homes’ pricing.
That access would allow consumers to more easily comparison shop for a funeral home that stays within their budget. The petition states:
Many Americans cannot afford the average funeral as the market functions today. Full information is associated with competitive markets and greater consumer surplus. To state the obvious: shopping around leads to savings. Research shows price shopping on the Internet yields savings.
The petition notes that many people are forced to make funeral arrangement and purchasing decisions quickly, while grieving the loss of a loved one.
Although the FTC is slated to review “The Funeral Rule” — which was originally issued to make funeral home pricing more transparent — in 2019, the petition urges the commission to act now because “between now and 2019, consumers will likely spend at least $50 billion on funeral services.”
Josh Slocum, executive director of the FCA, says he’s hopeful the FTC will act promptly on the petition request.
“Grieving families don’t have time to wait,” he says.
Check out “Why It’s Tough to Get a Good Price on Cremation.”
Have you planned a funeral lately? Were you surprised at the costs? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.