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FTC and the Statement of Funeral Goods and Services

 

The Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected is an itemized list of the goods and services that the consumer has selected during the arrangements conference. The Statement allows consumers to evaluate their selections and to make any desired changes.

The Rule does not require any specific form, heading, or caption on the Statement. The information required on the Statement, described below, can be included on a contract or any other document that funeral service providers give to customers at the conclusion of the arrangements discussion.

The categories of goods and services listed on the Statement (or other similar document) should generally correspond to the items listed on the GPL, so that customers can easily compare the two documents.

Funeral service providers must give each consumer a completed Statement at the end of the arrangements discussion. If arrangements are made in person, they should give the Statement at this time. Giving a consumer a copy of the Statement at the funeral or mailing it to the consumer at some later date does not meet the requirements of the Rule.

The Rule does not address the manner or timing of payment. That is between the funeral service provider and the customer.

If arrangements are made over the telephone, the funeral service provider should give the consumer the Statement at the earliest possible date.

Example: On Wednesday evening, Mrs. Shelley calls her funeral service provider to make funeral arrangements for her father and tells them that she will come to the funeral home on Thursday morning to finalize such arrangements. When Mrs. Shelley arrives the next morning, the funeral service provider should give her the required GPL and confirm the arrangements made. Then, once the arrangements are finalized, Mrs. Shelley should be given the Statement.

If a consumer makes all funeral arrangements by telephone, the funeral service provider should make a reasonable attempt to give a completed Statement to the consumer before a final disposition of the remains occurs.

If the consumer does not visit the funeral home in person before the final disposition, the provider should still give or send a completed Statement to the consumer as soon as possible.

The Rule requires the funeral service provider to include cost information and specific disclosures on the Statement.

Cost Information

All individual goods and services that the consumer will purchase should be listed, together with the price for each item. The funeral service provider cannot simply lump together goods and services that are listed separately on the GPL.

Example: the Statement would violate the Rule if it listed only three broad categories for "Services," "Facilities," and "Automotive Equipment."

Funeral service providers may still offer funeral packages, as long as they are offered in addition to, not in place of, itemized prices. If the consumer selects a package (after itemized prices are offered), the Statement should describe the package, listing individually each of the goods and services included in the package, and state the package price.

Funeral service providers also must list each cash advance item separately on the Statement, together with the price for each item. Cash advance items are items of service or merchandise that:

  • are described to a consumer as a "cash advance," "accommodation," "cash disbursement," or by any similar term

  • providers obtain from a third party and pay for on the consumerís behalf.

Cash advance items may include such things as cemetery or crematory services, pallbearers, public transportation, clergy honoraria, flowers, musicians or singers, nurses, obituary notices, gratuities, and death certificates.

If providers don't know the price of a particular cash advance item, they should enter a good faith estimate. However, they should give a written statement of the actual charges before the final bill is paid.

Finally, they must give the consumer the total cost of the arrangements selected (individual goods and services plus cash advance items).

Disclosures

Funeral service providers must place the following three disclosures on their Statement. They should be set out, word for word, exactly as the Rule prescribes.

1. Legal Requirements

The first disclosure states that providers will charge consumers only for the items they have selected and that they will explain any legal, cemetery, or crematory requirements in writing.

"Charges are only for those items that you selected or that are required. If we are required by law or by a cemetery or crematory to use any items, we will explain the reasons in writing below."

The form should leave enough space for the provider to identify and explain in writing any legal, cemetery, or crematory requirement that compels the consumer to purchase a specific funeral good or service. They should enter this information on the Statement before it is given to the customer.

2. Embalming

The second disclosure relates to embalming and the need for prior approval.

"If you selected a funeral that may require embalming, such as a funeral with viewing, you may have to pay for embalming. You do not have to pay for embalming you did not approve if you selected arrangements such as a direct cremation or immediate burial. If we charged for embalming, we will explain why below."

The form should leave enough space for the funeral service provider to explain the reason for embalming. They should enter this information on the Statement before giving it to the customer.

3. Cash Advance Items

The third disclosure relates to charges for funeral service providers' services in buying cash advance items. If they charge for purchasing a cash advance item, or if they receive and retain a rebate, commission, or trade or volume discount for a cash advance item, they must make the following disclosure:

"We charge you for our services in obtaining: (specify cash advance items)."

Funeral service providers must place this disclosure in immediate conjunction with (directly next to) the list of itemized cash advance items on their Statement and specify those cash advance items to which the disclosure applies. They should not put the disclosure on a separate page or elsewhere on the Statement apart from the list of itemized cash advance items.

 

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