FTC Required Items on the General Price List (GPL)
The Rule requires funeral service providers to itemize the prices for certain goods and services so consumers may choose only those elements of a funeral that they want. They must list the following 16 specified items of goods and services on the GPL, together with the price for each item:
Funeral service providers can list these items in any order they choose. They only have to list the items they actually offer. If they do not offer one or more of the 16 items, they need not list those items on the General Price List.
In addition to these 16 items, funeral service providers also may list other items they offer, such as acknowledgement cards and cremation urns. They also may provide prices for package funerals on the GPL. However, they must offer any package funerals in addition to and not in place of the required itemized prices.
The itemized prices on the General Price List, as well as the Casket Price List and Outer Burial Container Price List, should be accurate and up-to-date. These prices should reflect the prices they actually charge their customers.
Of course, funeral service providers can offer a discount when there are special circumstances, such as arrangements for a friend or relative or a family that otherwise could not afford their services.
The Rule does not prevent them from doing this. However, they should not inflate the prices on any of their price lists in order to offer all or most of their customers a discount. In that case, the "discounted" prices would be the accurate prices and should be reflected on the price lists.
Items 1-4: Minimal Services
Four items that the Rule requires funeral service providers to list are: (1) forwarding of remains; (2) receiving remains; (3) direct cremation; and (4) immediate burial. Unlike the rest of the goods and services that must be listed on the GPL, the prices for these four items must include any fee they will charge consumers for the basic professional services of the funeral director and staff.
Example: Ms. James wants to arrange an immediate burial for her father. In addition, she chooses acknowledgement cards, use of a limousine, and a graveside service. The funeral service provider should charge her the fee for an immediate burial plus the fees for the other items that she wants. But, she should not be charged an additional non-declinable basic services fee. A charge for basic services is already included in the price for the immediate burial. The required disclosure about the basic services fee informs the consumer of this fact.
For forwarding of remains and receiving remains, the GPL should list one price for each of these items and describe all services that will be provided for the quoted price. The prices for these items should include all charges relating to each service, including any basic services fee and any facilities or equipment fees.
For direct cremations, the GPL must state a price range, along with the required disclosure about the availability of an alternative container, then list each of the following options within the range:
The GPL must also include a description of the services and container provided for each price. If funeral service providers wish, they also may list other options, such as direct cremation with a memorial service or direct cremation with scattering of ashes.
The price of the actual cremation of the deceased may or may not be included in the price for direct cremation. If the funeral service provider owns a crematory, it would be appropriate to include the cremation charge in this fee. However, if they use a crematory that someone else owns, they may treat this charge as a cash advance item. In that case, they should make clear to the customer that there will be an added charge by the crematory.
For immediate burials, the funeral service provider must give a price range, together with each of the following separate options within the range:
The GPL must also contain a description of the services and container provided for each price. If the immediate burial option is available with any casket on the Casket Price List, the General Price List can simply state the price of the service and refer the customer to the Casket Price List for casket prices.
Item 5: Basic services of funeral director and staff (and overhead)
The charge for the services of the funeral director and staff is a fee for the basic services that they furnish in arranging any funeral. This is the "basic services fee" discussed in the Required Disclosures section. If the customer cannot decline this fee, the disclosure that appears in the Information Required on the GPL (Under Basic Services Fee).
This basic services fee should include services that are common to virtually all forms of disposition or arrangements that the funeral service provider offers, such as conducting the arrangements conference, securing the necessary permits, preparing the notices, sheltering of remains, and coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory, or other third parties.
The basic services fee should not include charges related to other items that must be separately listed on the General Price List and that the customer may decline to purchase.
The funeral service provider should include any charges for the ordinary sheltering of remains by the funeral home in this basic services fee. However, they can list a separate charge for sheltering of remains if: 1) a significant percentage of their customers do not use the funeral home to hold the remains at any point, or 2) they receive a request to hold the remains for an unusually long period of time.
The basic services fee also may include overhead from various aspects of the business operation, such as the parking lot, reception and arrangements rooms, and other common areas. It also may include insurance, staff salaries, taxes, and fees that they must pay.
Alternatively, instead of including all overhead in the basic services fee, they can spread the overhead charges across the various individual goods and services they offer. As a third alternative, they can combine the first two approaches: spread some portion of the overhead charges across the individual items, while including the remainder of such charges in the basic services fee.
Note: These are the only ways to recoup overhead costs. In addition, if this basic services fee is non-declinable, the fee must include any charges for overhead that have not been allocated to the other goods and services.
Funeral service providers have two options for listing their basic services fee on the General Price List.
Option 1: They may list a separate price for the basic services of the funeral director and staff, together with a list of the principal services provided for the price and the required disclosure. If consumers cannot decline this fee, the funeral service provider should include in this separate price all charges for "unallocated overhead"—that is, all overhead not distributed among the other items listed on the GPL.
Option 2: Instead of charging a separate basic services fee, funeral service providers may include the fee in their casket prices. With this alternative, they must include the appropriate disclosure (see Casket Price List) on the General Price List, together with the prices for the individual caskets or with the casket price range (if they have a separate Casket Price List).
This fee also must include all charges for the recovery of unallocated overhead. As the disclosure indicates, the funeral service provider must specify the amount of the basic services fee that is included in the price of the caskets. If the customer provides a casket obtained elsewhere, that same basic services fee must be added to the total cost of the arrangements selected.
The Rule expressly states that the basic services fee is the only non-declinable fee allowed for services, facilities, or unallocated overhead, unless state or local law requires otherwise. Other than the basic services fee, the funeral service providers cannot charge any separate fee for overhead.
Charging a second non-declinable fee, such as a "basic facilities fee" or a "casket handling fee," in addition to the basic services fee would violate the Rule. Moreover, the funeral service provider cannot list fees for "additional services" of the funeral director and staff, if those fees should be included in the basic services fee or in one of the other items required to be listed on the GPL.
Example: The funeral service provider has a non-declinable fee for the basic services of funeral director and staff. He or she also list the following fee on the General Price List:
Additional Services of the Funeral Director and Staff-tis charge includes:
(a) coordinating and directing funeral ceremony;
(b) paying competitive salaries to employees;
(c) providing 24-hour on-call service to each family;
(d) maintaining funeral service licensing; and
(e) complying with federal and state codes and regulations,
This fee for additional services violates the Rule. All of the charges listed should be included elsewhere on the GPL. They should include charge (a) for coordinating and directing the funeral ceremony in the separate charge for a funeral ceremony. (See the discussion of this charge in Items 6-16.)
The other items, (b) through (e), relate to basic overhead. Funeral service providers either should include such charges in the basic services fee or allocate these costs among all the items listed on the GPL.
The funeral service provider must list the following items separately with their respective prices. The charge for each item should include all service fees and any equipment or facility charges for providing that particular good or service. (It will not, however, include any portion of the "basic services fee," discussed above, in any of these items.)
The price for embalming should include use of the preparation room, as well as the professional services, equipment, and materials involved in performing embalming. In addition, as discussed in Embalming, the funeral service provider must tell consumers that the law does not require embalming.
Charges for other preparation of the body should include such services as cosmetic work to prepare the deceased for viewing. Under this category, service providers can also show a price for washing and disinfecting when that procedure is used instead of embalming.
Funeral service providers may charge a flat fee or an hourly fee for the use of their facilities and staff for viewing. The price for a viewing should include charges for both the services of staff and the facilities used in connection with a viewing. They should not list two separate charges relating to a viewing, such as one for the facilities and another for the staff services.
However, if they provide staff services for viewing held at another facility, such as a church or a home, they should list a separate fee for such services. (In this situation, a facilities charge would not be appropriate because their own facilities are not being used.)
The charge for a funeral ceremony at the funeral home, that is, a commemorative service with the body present, should include both the use of facilities and the necessary staff services. The funeral service provider should not list two separate charges relating to a funeral ceremony, such as one for the facilities and another for the staff services. However, if they provide staff services for a funeral ceremony at another facility, such as a church, they should list a separate fee for such services.
The charge for use of facilities and staff for a commemorative service without the body present should include both the use of facilities and the staff services. The funeral service provider should not list two separate charges relating to a memorial service, one for the use of facilities and another for the staff services. However, if they provide staff services for a memorial service at another facility, such as a church, they should list a separate fee for such services.
Some families may choose to have a graveside service instead of a funeral ceremony at the funeral home. Funeral service providers' charge for this service should include both staff services and any equipment they may provide (such as a tent and chairs).
They should not list two separate charges relating to a graveside service, one for equipment and another for staff services. If the charge for a funeral ceremony normally includes a committal service at the grave following the funeral, the funeral service provider can continue this practice, or offer a separate charge for a committal service following a funeral ceremony. The separate charge for a graveside service is intended for those situations when there is no funeral ceremony at the funeral home or elsewhere.
Funeral service providers can use any pricing method for the use of a hearse or limousine, such as a flat fee, an hourly charge, or a mileage charge. For example, they can charge a flat fee with or without an additional mileage charge for distances beyond a certain specified radius.
Funeral service providers can list casket prices in either of two ways: (1) a casket price range, with the disclosure about the availability of the Casket Price List; or (2) they can list the prices of individual caskets on the General Price List.
As with casket prices, the funeral service provider can list outer burial container prices in either of two ways: (1) list an outer burial container price range, with the relevant disclosure about the Outer Burial Container Price List ; or (2) list the prices of individual containers on the General Price List.