When the original Funeral Rule took effect in 1984, it required funeral homes to separately itemize 17 goods and services on the General Price List (GPL). In addition, the GPL had to contain seven mandatory disclosures informing consumers of various rights and options they had in arranging a funeral.
With the enactment of the amended Funeral Rule on January 11, 1994, changes had to be made to every funeral home's GPL. Of the 17 items that had to be listed under the original Funeral Rule, three have been eliminated and two new items have been added. In addition, four of the seven mandatory disclosures have been modified and one has been eliminated.
The objective of this Chapter I is to take funeral directors step-by-step through the GPL to explain what the GPL must contain and how it is to be constructed. As the manual goes through this process, it will point out those areas of the GPL that have been modified by the amended Funeral Rule.
There are six items that should appear at the beginning of a GPL before presenting the itemized prices. They are as follows:
"The goods and services shown below are those we can provide to our customers. You may choose only the items you desire. However, any funeral arrangements you select will include a charge for our basic services and overhead. If legal or other requirements mean you must buy any items you did not specifically ask for, we will explain the reason in writing on the statement we provide describing the funeral goods and services you selected."
The amended Funeral Rule made two changes to the mandatory disclosure printed above. First, the word "basic" must appear in the third sentence. Secondly, if the funeral home wishes to advise consumers that its basic nondeclinable service fee includes all charges for unallocated overhead, it may (but is not required to) add the words "and overhead"to the end of the third sentence. The mandatory disclosure quoted above contains both of these modifications.
In those rare cases where funeral homes do not make the services of the funeral director and staff nondeclinable, the third sentence of the disclosure "However, any funeral arrangement you select will include a charge for our basic services and overhead." should be omitted.
Please note that although the FTC has selected 16 goods and services for itemization, your GPL may list other goods and services that you offer. Indeed, as a matter of proper business practice, if you make a charge for any good or service, it should be listed on the GPL. You should also be aware that if you choose not to offer one or more of the 16 goods or services for sale, you need not place it on the GPL. For example, if your firm elects not to offer direct cremation, you may delete price listings for direct cremation on the GPL.
The following 16 funeral goods and services must be separately itemized on the GPL:
The amended Funeral Rule defines the Basic Services of Funeral Director and Staff as those basic services "that are furnished by a funeral provider in arranging any funeral, such as conducting the arrangement conference, planning the funeral, obtaining necessary permits and placing obituary notices."In addition, if the funeral home elects to make this fee nondeclinable, the basic service fee must also include all charges for the recovery of unallocated funeral home overhead. Funeral directors may, therefore include in the basic service fee those services which will be performed in nearly every funeral(arrangement conference, obtaining permits, planning funerals, shelter of remains, placing obituary notices) as well as overhead charges (utilities, maintenance, administrative services, insurance, taxes).
In nearly every funeral arrangement, the funeral home will be required to shelter the remains for some period of time. The FTC has indicated that shelter of remains should be incorporated as part of the basic service fee of the funeral home. Therefore, unless the funeral home has to hold the body for an extended period of time (see discussion under "Other Preparation of the Body"), it should not have a separate charge for shelter of remains.
It is important to understand that the basic service fee cannot include any items that must be separately itemized elsewhere. For example, a funeral director violates the Rule if the description of the basic service fee includes any of the following: services of staff in transporting remains, preparation of the body, or services in setting up and supervising the visitation, funeral ceremony, memorial service or graveside service. All these items must be declinable under the Rule; inclusion of any of these items in the basic service fee constitutes a violation of the Rule.
For this reason, it is imperative that the description of what services are included under "Basic Services of Funeral Director and Staff" be properly drafted. (The amended Funeral Rule requires the GPL to explain the principal services included in this charge.) To avoid any problem, we advise funeral directors to use generic language in describing these services, such as the following:
"Our basic service charge includes, but is not limited to, staff to respond to initial request for service; arrangement conference with family or responsible party; preparation and filing of necessary certificates and permits; shelter of remains; placement of obituary notices; planning of funeral arrangements; and coordination of service with cemetery, crematory, vault companies and others as required."Since funeral homes that make the basic service fee nondeclinable must also incorporate in that fee any unallocated overhead expenses, they may also wish to explain to consumers that the basic service fee includes certain overhead items associated with the operation of the funeral home. Funeral homes may utilize any description of overhead expenses which they wish. The following paragraph is an example of language which could be used:
"Also included in this charge are overhead expenses relative to our facility such as insurance, maintenance and utility expenses, secretarial and administrative costs, and equipment and inventory expenses."
Funeral directors should note the following three important modifications that have been made to the basic service charge as a result of the amended Funeral Rule:
Under the amended Funeral Rule, all "additional service fees" must be eliminated. The amended Funeral Rule directs that all services relating to the visitation, funeral ceremony, memorial service and graveside service must now be incorporated into the facility charges for these ceremonies. This new pricing structure is explained in subsections 4, 5, 6 and 7. What is important to stress here is that funeral homes with "additional services of funeral director and staff" charges must delete these charges from the GPL.
"This fee for our basic services and overhead will be added to the total cost of the funeral arrangements you select. (This fee is already included in our charges for direct cremations, immediate burials and forwarding or receiving remains.)"
The modifications made to this disclosure are twofold. First, the word "basic" has been added as the fifth word in the first sentence. This modification is mandatory. Secondly, if a funeral home wishes, it may add the words "and overhead" as the seventh and eighth words in the first sentence. This modification is purely discretionary.
A few funeral homes still follow the practice of incorporating the entire service fee into the price of the casket. This practice is permitted under the Rule. If this pricing practice is followed, the funeral home must inform consumers of this fact by placing a mandatory disclosure in conjunction with the casket price range on the GPL. That mandatory disclosure has been modified by the amended Funeral Rule and now reads as follows:
"Please note that a fee of [specify dollar amount] for the use of our basic services and overhead is included in the price of our caskets. This same fee shall be added to the total cost of your funeral arrangements if you provide the casket. Our services include...[describe services]."
Funeral directors who wish to amplify on their state legal requirements for embalming are free to do so on the GPL. However, do not change the wording of the above quoted mandatory disclosure. Rather, if you wish to print additional information on the legal or practical necessities of embalming, simply place this information below the disclosure required by the amended Funeral Rule.
Some funeral directors charge additional fees for embalming when special restoration is required, when an autopsy has been performed, or in the case of organ/tissue donations. These additional fees should be noted on the GPL. Please note that as a result of the Americans with Disabilities Act, no additional charges should be made for embalming AIDS or other contagious disease cases.
Restoration Charge per hour $___________ Washing or Disinfecting Unembalmed Remains $___________ Dressing and Casketing $___________ Hairstyling $___________ Refrigeration per day $___________ *Shelter of Remains per day $___________ *(This charge is made commencing on the ___ day our facilities are used to shelter the remains.)
Whenever a funeral home holds a body for an extended period of time, it may charge a separate shelter of remains fee. The FTC has advised funeral homes that they should determine the average length of time in which they hold a body during the typical funeral. After the expiration of that time period, a separate shelter of remains fee may be imposed. For example, if your funeral home holds a body for three days during the typical funeral, it may begin to impose a shelter of remains charge on the fourth day in which it holds the body. If a separate shelter of remains fee is to be charged by the funeral home, the funeral home should clearly note on its GPL the exact day when that fee will begin to be incurred by the family.
As a result of the amended Funeral Rule, all charges relating to viewing/visitation must be included in one fee. For example, a funeral director may not have a use of facilities charge for visitation and also a separate charge for service of funeral director and staff during the visitation. Both services and facilities must be incorporated into one fee.
The new requirement does not mean a funeral home cannot have multiple listings of visitation fees. As seen in the expanded model GPL in Chapter XI, funeral homes can have many different types of visitation fees (e.g. half-day, one day, two day, per hour charge, private visitation, off-site visitation). The important point in designing each visitation fee is that the charges for services in arranging and supervising the visitation are combined with the charges for facilities and equipment associated with the visitation.
Because "graveside service" can have several meanings, NFDA requested the FTC to provide direction on what constitutes a graveside service for the purpose of the Rule. According to the FTC, the graveside service that must be itemized on the GPL is the ceremony at the graveside when no other funeral ceremony is conducted by the funeral home. Therefore, if the only funeral ceremony is at the graveside, you should impose a separate graveside service fee. However, if the family has a funeral ceremony at the funeral home or church, and then has a committal service at the graveside, the committal ceremony need not be regarded as a graveside service.
This distinction is important because if a committal service following a funeral was regarded as a graveside service according to the Rule, a funeral home could not incorporate the committal service into the funeral ceremony charge. However, since the committal service is not regarded as a graveside service, it can be included as part of the funeral ceremony charge if the funeral home so wishes. Of course, if the funeral home wishes to charge separately for the committal service, it is free to do so.
Although the mandatory disclosure which informs consumers that a separate price list for outer burial containers will be provided at the funeral home is identical to the mandatory disclosure required under the casket price range, a funeral director must place both of these disclosures on the GPL The disclosure on the availability of a Casket Price List must be placed immediately under the casket price range listings and the disclosure regarding the Outer Burial Container Price List should be placed immediately under the outer burial container price range.
Although you must list one total charge for the service of forwarding remains, you may, if you wish, provide an itemized price breakdown for each component of this service. For example, you may list the total cost of forwarding remains at $1,000 and then break down the cost to show a service fee of $500, embalming as $200, removal of remains as $75, transportation to the airport as $125 and minimum transportation container as $100. (These prices are used only to illustrate a permissible cost breakdown, and do not in any way represent suggested prices for the services described.)
The amended Funeral Rule does requires a funeral director to describe the principal components of forwarding remains. When providing this description, it is prudent to note that the service does not include funeral rites or ceremonies. The following is an example of how to present the forwarding remains price listing on the GPL: Forwarding Remains to Another Funeral Home $___________ This charge includes the removal of remains, basic service of staff, embalming, necessary authorizations, minimum shipping container and local transportation to airport. This charge does not include visitation, rites, or ceremonies prior to forwarding of the body.
If you provide direct cremation, the amended Funeral Rule requires you to offer alternative containers or unfinished wood boxes to your families. In addition, the Rule requires that a mandatory disclosure be printed in conjunction with the direct cremation listing which explains to the family that they have an option of using an alternative container. This mandatory disclosure has been modified by the amended Funeral Rule and now reads as follows: "If you want to arrange a direct cremation, you can use an alternative container. Alternative containers encase the body and can be made of materials like fiberboard or composition materials (with or without an outside covering). The containers we provide are [specify the types of containers that the funeral home makes available to direct cremation consumers]." Please note that one of the modifications which the amended Funeral Rule made to the above disclosure is the new requirement that funeral homes list at the end of the mandatory disclosure the types of alternative containers which they make available. Therefore, funeral homes will have to insert at the end of the final sentence a brief description of the containers which they normally offer to their direct cremation customers.
In listing direct cremations, the GPL must contain a price range of the lowest and highest priced direct cremation packages. It should then provide a brief description of the principal services involved in the direct cremation offering. The mandatory disclosure that informs consumers of the availability of the alternative containers usually is placed after the description of services. Finally, the GPL lists the prices for the various package offerings. The following example demonstrates a typical price listing for direct cremation. Direct cremation $___________ to $___________ The charge for a direct cremation includes removal of remains, local transportation to crematory, necessary authorizations and basic services of staff. This charge does not include the crematory fee or the use of facilities and staff for any visitation or ceremony, public or private, prior to the cremation. If you want to arrange a direct cremation, you can use an alternative container. Alternative containers encase the body and can be made of materials like fiberboard or composition materials (with or without an outside covering). The containers we provide are unfinished wood boxes and fiberboard boxes. Direct cremation with container provided by purchaser $___________ Direct cremation with fiberboard container selected from our funeral home $___________ Direct cremation with unfinished wood box selected from our funeral home $___________ Direct cremation with casket selected from our funeral home (in addition to cost of casket) $___________
There is one peculiarity of which funeral directors should be aware. Unlike direct cremations where funeral directors are obligated to offer consumers the option of purchasing an alternative container, there is no such obligation with immediate burials. The Rule does not require funeral directors to sell unfinished wood boxes or alternative containers to consumers who wish to arrange immediate burials. Of course, a funeral director is free to offer this option.
Following is a typical example of an immediate burial price listing: Immediate Burial $___________ to $___________ The charge for a immediate burial includes removal of remains, local transportation to the cemetery, the necessary authorizations and basic services of staff. This charge does not include the use of facilities and staff for any visitation or ceremony, public or private, prior to burial. Immediate burial with casket provided by purchaser $___________ Immediate burial with grey cloth covered softwood casket selected from our funeral home $___________ Immediate burial with casket selected from our funeral home (in addition to cost of casket) $___________
There are generally six separate disclosures that must be made on the GPL. We referred to all of them in the previous section. However, because they are such an important part of compliance with the amended Funeral Rule, this section will provide a simple checklist for you to follow to ensure your GPL is in compliance.
Prior to addressing these disclosures, there are two general observations that should be made. The first is that funeral directors should not modify or edit the wording of the mandatory disclosures. Although the disclosures may not be applicable or may even be misleading in certain situations, they should be printed on your GPL in the exact wording provided by the amended Funeral Rule. The FTC does not permit deviation and has typically regarded any change in the wording of a mandatory disclosure to be a Rule violation.
If a mandatory disclosure is irrelevant or misleading, you may print additional information on your GPL to explain why the information in the disclosure is not applicable. Generally, this additional information would be printed immediately after the mandatory disclosure.
The second point to keep in mind is the Rule's requirement that the mandatory disclosures be made in a "clear and conspicuous manner." This does not mean that the disclosures must be in boldface print; it does mean, however, that they should not be in smaller type than the other printed material on the GPL. You should ensure that all disclosures are legible and properly positioned on the GPL.
In order to ensure your GPL is in compliance, check to see that the following disclosures appear on the GPL, that the wording of the disclosures is exactly as set forth, and that the disclosures are in the proper place on the GPL.
The amended Funeral Rule does not prohibit the practice of offering funeral services on a package price basis. As many package elections as the funeral director wishes to offer may be placed on the GPL. The only proviso is that itemized selections must also be on the GPL.
The amended Funeral Rule does not dictate where package offerings must be placed on the GPL relative to the itemized offerings. For example, if a funeral director wished to emphasize package services, they could be placed at the beginning of the GPL. Please note, however, that the mandatory disclosure concerning the choice of goods and services must immediately precede the itemized offerings. Therefore, if you place your package selections at the beginning of the GPL, they should not be positioned between the mandatory disclosure concerning the choice of goods and services and the itemized offerings. You should move the mandatory disclosure on the choice of goods and services so that it follows the package offerings.
In pricing your package services, you are free to discount the price of the total package so that it is less than the sum of the itemized goods and services that make up the package. You are also free to restrict discount packages to families that purchase caskets and/or outer burial containers from the funeral home. For example, you may offer a traditional funeral package at a discount, but restrict its availability to only those families that elect to purchase a casket from the funeral home.
The only proviso in offering discounts to consumers who purchase caskets from you is that the discount may not apply only to the non-declinable basic service fee. In other words, a funeral home may not discount its basic service fee for those consumers who purchase a casket from it. The FTC Staff has indicated that it would view this type of discount structure as a reverse casket handling fee. Therefore, the discount should apply to a package of goods and/or services, and not simply to the basic service fee.
To ensure that the funeral home has complied with all the modifications to the GPL required by the amended Funeral Rule, we have recapped them as follows:
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