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More Legislators Lend Their Names as Co-sponsors Of the Funeral Rule Improvement Act of 2014

Posted: April 6, 2014

From the Memorial Business Journal

Learn how you can take action to support passage of this bill!

As H.R. 4213, "Funeral Rule Improvement Act of 2014," waits its turn for consideration with the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, four other U.S. representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Last month, we reported that Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky) had introduced H.R. 4213, which set the stage for another attempt by Congress to amend the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule. Originally, two representatives, Gary Peters (D-Michigan) and Tim Walberg (R-Michigan), signed on as co-sponsors. Since then, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-New York), Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) have become co-sponsors, which brings the partisan tally to three Democrats and three Republicans.

Meantime, John H. Fitch Jr., senior vice president of advocacy for the National Funeral Directors Association, is urging funeral directors to rally in support of the bill. Trying to drum up some more grassroots support for the legislation, he is encouraging funeral directors to voice support of the proposed legislation by using Congress-at-a-Click to send an email to their House members.

The main portion of the "Funeral Rule Improvement Act of 2014" revises regulations regarding funeral industry practices required.

The bill states that not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this act, the FTC shall revise the definitions in Section 453.1 of Title 16, Code of Federal Regulations, by amending the definition of "funeral provider" to read: "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."

However, exempt from this list of "funeral providers" would be:

  • Any religious denomination, middle judicatory, house of worship or similar religious organization
  • Any state or political subdivision of a state
  • Any cemetery that has 25 or fewer burials per year
  • Any entity described in Section 501(c)(13) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. 501(c)(13)).

The proposed legislation would also amend the definition of "funeral services" to read: "'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 of the funeral ceremony or final disposition of deceased human bodies."

"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," Fitch said.

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.

"This has been a long-standing position of NFDA, and we hope to move this bill through the House this year," said Fitch. "A Senate version 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 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 nonprofits that 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.


Take Action Today!

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!

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