Posted: March 13, 2014
Update: March 20, 2014
From: Memorial Business Journal
On March 12, the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 4213, "Funeral Rule Improvement Act of 2014," which would update the FTC Funeral Rule to include all for-profit sellers of funeral or final disposition goods or services not now covered by the Funeral Rule.
Since the current Funeral Rule essentially only applies to funeral homes, consumers who purchase funeral or final disposition goods or services from other third-party sellers are not protected.
"The bill would essentially change the 'and' to 'or' in the definition of 'Funeral Provider' thus bringing under the FTC Funeral Rule all for-profit sellers of funeral or final disposition services or merchandise," said John Fitch, senior vice president of advocacy for the National Funeral Directors Association.
"This has been a long-standing position of NFDA and we hope to move this bill through the House this year," he said. "A Senate version also is anticipated later this year."
According to Fitch, "if the original intent of the funeral rule remains valid, that is, to protect consumers from fraudulent and misleading practices, then Congress must apply those same rules to those sellers who are not now covered by the Funeral Rule."
This would include all other non-traditional sellers of funeral or final disposition goods or services with the exception of religious organizations, state and local governments, cemeteries that do 25 or fewer burials a year and those non-profits who qualify under Section 501 (c) (13) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Although religious cemeteries would be exempt under the proposed bill, Fitch said it is unclear whether religious cemeteries managed by for-profit companies would be exempt. "The bill does not specify," he said.
The last time a bill seeking sweeping changes to the FTC's Funeral Rule was in 2011 when Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) has reintroduced a bill that would direct the Federal Trade Commission to adopt rules to regulate all cemeteries, crematories and third-party sellers of funeral and burial services and merchandise to the public.
This bill is "very different" from the Rush Bill, according to Fitch. "The Rush bill required the FTC to issue a separate rule for cemeteries and third-party sellers – a better approach but one that Republicans would not support. It also included all religious cemeteries. It also had quite extensive recording keeping requirements for cemeteries."
Fitch said that Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) have signed on as co-sponsors. He said that other co-sponsors are expected.
The bill now goes to the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade for consideration.
NFDA members who want to urge their elected representatives to support H.R. 4213 can use the NFDA Congress-at-a-Click tool to do so. The process is quick and easy - an email has already been prepared, but you can customize it if you wish. Visit www.nfda.org/congressataclick (login required) and send an email today!
Update: March 20, 2014
H.R. 4213 now has five total co-sponsors. New co-sponsors added in the last week are: Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Tom Latham (R-IA) and Michael Michaud (D-ME).
Click here to track the progress of H.R. 4213.
Congress has published the full text of H.R. 4213., which reads as follows:
H. R. 4213
In The House of Representatives
March 12, 2014
Mr. Whitfield (for himself, Mr. Peters of Michigan, and Mr. Walberg) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce
To direct the Federal Trade Commission to revise the regulations regarding the definitions for funeral industry practices.
Section 1. Short title
This Act may be cited as the "Funeral Rule Improvement Act of 2014 ".
Sec. 2. Revision of regulations regarding funeral industry practices required
Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall revise the definitions in section 453.1 of title 16, Code of Federal Regulations in the following manner:
(1) By amending the definition of "funeral provider" to read as follows: "A "funeral provider" is any person, partnership, trust, or corporation that sells or offers to sell funeral or burial goods or services to the public.".
(2) By further amending the definition of "funeral provider" to except each of the following:
(A) Any religious denomination, middle judicatory, house of worship, or similar religious organization.
(B) Any State or political subdivision of a State.
(C) Any cemetery that has 25 or fewer burials per year.
(D) Any entity described in section 501(c)(13) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 501(c)(13)).
(3) By amending the definition of "funeral services" to read as follows: " "Funeral or burial services" are any services that are sold or offered for sale directly to the public for use in connection with either: (1) the care and preparation of deceased human remains for burial, cremation, or other final disposition or (2) the arrangement, supervision, or carrying out the funeral ceremony or final disposition of deceased human bodies.".
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