Your Rights as a Funeral Consumer*
This information is intended as general guidance for funeral consumers, and is not legal advice by the FCANNJ
In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) implemented the Funeral Industry Practices Trade Regulation Rule — commonly known as the Funeral Rule. Its purpose is to ensure accurate itemized price information for funeral goods and services, and to create a transparent relationship between the consumer and the funeral business. Listed below are some of the important rights guaranteed to consumers by the FTC rulings. For more information, go to https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule
- The Right to obtain a General Price List (GPL).
A funeral director is required to give their GPL that includes all funeral goods, services and prices. The Funeral Rule applies to anyone, not just potential customers entering the funeral home.
- The Right to select ONLY those goods and services that you desire.
You have a right to choose only those goods and services that you want or can afford. For instance, you may select a simple casket over a more expensive one or even a less costly cremation casket for an earth burial.
- The Right to an Explanation of the itemized prices on the GPL.
This allows the consumer to comparison shop and select only those goods and services they wish. While packages may be offered, they may contain items you don’t want. The Funeral Rule allows packages only in addition to, not instead of, itemized pricing.
- The Right to a Written Statement of your choices.
The funeral director must give you a statement listing all goods and services you have selected, the price of each, and the total cost, immediately after you make your arrangements.
- The Right to Decline Embalming.
Embalming is a process by which bodily fluids are replaced with chemical preservatives. Though no State requires embalming and there is generally no health risk without it, many funeral homes require it when a viewing is chosen. If Direct Cremation or Immediate Burial without a viewing is chosen, no preservation is required. If the disposition is delayed beyond 48 hours after death, a funeral home without refrigeration may insist on embalming. (Click here for more on embalming)
- The Right to Direct Cremation or Immediate Burial.
The Funeral Director must include in the GPL, prices for direct cremation and immediate burial, the simplest type of funeral arrangements. Both are without viewing, embalming, visitation or other ceremony with the body present. Given the significant cost savings, The FCANNJ encourages consideration of these forms of funeral arrangements. (Click here for more on Direct Cremation and Immediate Burial)
- The Right to use an Alternative Container, or simple box, instead of a more costly casket for the cremation process.
The GPL listing for Direct Cremation must disclose that the consumer has the right to an alternate combustible container. There must be a price quote for cremation with a container purchased from the funeral home and one for cremation where you provide your own container that you have made or purchased elsewhere.
- The Right to receive a Casket Price List (CPL) before you are shown any caskets.
The Funeral Rule states that all caskets and alternative containers, whether for burial or cremation, must be listed on the same CPL. The consumer have the right to study the CPL before discussing any options or seeing any caskets.
- The Right to select a grave liner instead of a coffin vault.
Most cemeteries require that a casket be placed in a reinforced box, called an outer burial container. This container keeps the gravesite from sinking as decomposition occurs. There are two types of outer containers — coffin vaults and grave liners— and both satisfy cemetery requirements. However, coffin vaults can cost at least twice as much. You have the right to choose the less expensive grave liner.
- The Right not to be charged a handling fee if you purchase a casket outside the funeral home.
The funeral director cannot refuse to accept a casket that you have purchased elsewhere, such as online or from a casket business. You cannot be charged a casket storage or handling fee.
- The Right not to have funeral goods or services misrepresented
with false or misleading statements.
Caskets and outer burial containers with warranties may not be worth the extra cost and the funeral director is prohibited from stating that certain caskets or coffin vaults will delay the natural decomposition of human remains indefinitely.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Northern New Jersey urges that you plan ahead with funeral arrangements and always remember your Right of Selection. You have the right to select only those goods and services that you can afford and which conform to your wishes and beliefs.
For further information about planning funerals, go to the FTC website: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro26.htm