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V. Distribution of Price Lists and Price Information

The amended Funeral Rule sets forth certain events that trigger the requirement that the funeral director present a price list to a member of the public. The general purpose behind the Rule was to get a price list into the hands of a consumer or potential consumer prior to that person making any decision with regard to the purchase of funeral goods or services. As a result, the Rule's price list disclosure requirements are generalized. For this reason, it is prudent for funeral directors, as a general rule, to distribute price lists to families as early as possible during the arrangement process. In this way, they can be reasonably assured that they are in compliance with the Rule's disclosure requirements.

 

  1. General Price List
    1. Face-to-Face Inquiries - The GPL must be given for retention to individuals who inquire in person regarding funeral services, specific funeral goods or services, or the prices offered by the funeral home. Whenever there is any face-to-face discussion concerning the overall type of funeral service or disposition, specific funeral goods or funeral services, or the prices of those items, a GPL should be physically handed to the individual making the inquiry. It is not sufficient to simply offer the GPL or indicate that it is available for inspection.

      It should be noted by funeral directors that the triggering event for distribution of the GPL must be a face-to-face encounter. This is important for two reasons. First, there is no requirement to present a GPL to a telephone caller. If a person makes inquiries by telephone, you must provide certain information over the telephone (See Chapter VI); you do not, however, have to send the caller the GPL. You are free to make funeral arrangements over the telephone even though the caller does not have a GPL. Likewise, inquiries for prices received by mail do not require you to respond by sending a GPL. (Please note that some states do require funeral directors to mail a GPL to individuals upon request.)

      The second important aspect to keep in mind is that the face-to-face inquiry may be made at any location, not just the funeral home. Therefore, if you are removing a body from a residence, nursing home or hospital and the family inquires about funeral arrangements, specific funeral goods or services or the funeral home's prices, a GPL must be distributed to them. Undoubtedly, this will often place a funeral director or staff in an awkward position. Nevertheless, in order to comply with the Rule, a GPL must be presented. Funeral directors should instruct their staff to carry a GPL when making removals and teach them how to present the GPL as tactfully as possible.

      The amended Funeral Rule did create the one exception to the general requirement discussed above. If, during a removal, the funeral director makes a request for authorization to embalm, and the funeral director informs the family that embalming is not required by law except in certain special cases, the funeral director need not distribute a GPL at that time. Remember, this exception only applies for a face-to-face request for permission to embalm made during a removal and only if the funeral director informs the family that embalming is not required by law except in certain special cases. If the family makes any other inquiries regarding funeral arrangements, specific funeral goods and services, or prices, the GPL should be immediately presented to them.

       

    2. Preneed Arrangements - Since the amended Funeral Rule applies to preneed arrangements as well as at-need arrangements, the distribution of the GPL should be made to all preneed consumers. You should also note that whenever a person seeks to modify a preneed contract by selecting different goods or services, a GPL should be distributed. For example, if upon the death of a preneed contract beneficiary, the family wished to upgrade services or goods covered by the preneed contract, they should be given a GPL at the commencement of any discussion concerning the upgrade.

       

    3. Retention - The GPL is to be given to individuals for their retention. Therefore, it is a violation of the Rule to charge a consumer for a copy of the GPL or to require the consumer to return the GPL. It is also improper to place the GPL in a binder or notebook which would implicitly suggest to the consumer that the GPL is not to be retained. Of course, a funeral director could present the GPL to a consumer by means of a binder, provided the consumer was also given a copy of the GPL to retain. We would advise all funeral directors who use binders or notebooks in presenting their GPL to ensure that they also physically hand the consumer a copy of the GPL to retain.

     

  2. Casket Price List/Outer Burial Container Price List
    1. Triggering Event - The Casket Price List must be presented to consumers upon the commencement of a face-to-face discussion about offerings on the Casket Price List or the prices of those offerings. Therefore, if an individual inquires in person regarding the price or availability of caskets or alternative containers, the Casket Price List should be physically handed to the consumer.

      The distribution of the Outer Burial Container Price List is governed by the same requirements as the Casket Price List. Whenever a face-to-face discussion commences regarding the outer burial containers offered by the funeral home or their prices, the list should be presented. The Funeral Rule makes clear in both the case of the Casket Price List and the Outer Burial Container Price List that the lists should, at a minimum, be distributed prior to the funeral director showing models to the consumers. This is true whether the models are at the funeral home or at a manufacturer's showroom. Wherever the discussion commences, the list should be presented.

       

    2. Preneed - As with the distribution of the GPL, the distribution requirements for the Casket Price List and Outer Burial Container Price List apply regardless of whether the arrangements are preneed or at-need. If a family wishes to upgrade a casket or vault purchased pursuant to a preneed contact, the appropriate list should be presented to the family.

       

    3. No Retention Requirement - The Casket Price List and Outer Burial Container Price List do not have to be offered to consumers for their retention. A funeral director may request that the list be returned after the caskets and outer burial containers have been shown. Of course, funeral directors are free to allow consumers to retain the list if they so wish.

     

  3. Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected

    The presentation of the statement is to be made at the conclusion of the funeral arrangements. It should be completely filled out and show the total price of the funeral. Signatures are not required on the statement. If the arrangements are made pursuant to a telephone call, the statement should be promptly mailed to the consumer.

     

  4. Amended Funeral Rule Revisions

    The amended Funeral Rule made three principal modifications with regard to the distribution of the GPL. As discussed above, the three modifications were as follows:

    1. Distribution of GPL - In the original Funeral Rule, there was some confusion as to whether a funeral director must "give" a GPL or must "offer" a GPL. This ambiguity was cleared up in the amended Funeral Rule which clearly requires a funeral director to "give" a GPL. Therefore, do not merely indicate that a GPL is available. It should be physically handed to any individual making inquiries regarding funeral arrangements, specific funeral goods and services or funeral home prices.

       

    2. Funeral Arrangements - Goods and Services or Prices. Under the original Funeral Rule, funeral directors were required to distribute the GPL upon beginning discussions of funeral arrangements or the prices of funeral goods and services. The FTC was concerned that funeral directors were not distributing GPLs upon the discussion of specific funeral goods and services. Therefore, the amended Funeral Rule provides that a GPL must be distributed at the beginning of any of the following discussions: (a) discussion of overall type of funeral service or disposition; (b) discussion of specific funeral goods or funeral services; or (c) the prices offered by the funeral home.

       

    3. Permission to Embalm - An in-person request for permission to embalm during a removal does not trigger the requirement that a GPL be presented, provided that the funeral director has informed the consumer that embalming is not required by law except in certain special cases.