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10 Lessons From the FTC Funeral Rule Teleconference

For those who were unable attend NFDA's Annual Funeral Rule Compliance Teleconference on May 5, 2011, NFDA General Counsel T. Scott Gilligan has compiled 10 nuggets of information that will help members stay in compliance with the Funeral Rule. Several of these points were made or reinforced by Craig Tregillus, FTC Funeral Rule coordinator, who, along with Gilligan, was a presenter during the NFDA Teleconference. Mr. Tregillus' opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Here are Gilligan's "Top Ten Funeral Rule Compliance tips"

10. Price List Dates.
Whenever funeral homes change prices, make sure that the effective date of the GPL is updated. When the FTC conducts an undercover shop and sees that the date of the GPL is two or three years old, it raises suspicions that the funeral home may be using an outdated price list.

9. No Fuel Surcharges.
In this time of soaring gas prices, some funeral homes may wish to add fuel surcharges on the GPL. This is not permissible. The answer to soaring fuel prices is to simply increase prices on the GPL for motor services such as transfer of remains, hearse, limousine service, etc. Of course, whenever the price for motor services is adjusted, the effective date of the GPL should be updated.

8. Casket Warranties. To maintain compliance with the FTC Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, a funeral home needs to make available to consumers any written casket warranties made by the manufacturer. You may do this by either posting the warranties on the casket displays, or maintaining the warranties in a binder which is available to the consumer. If you use the option of compiling the warranties in a binder, you should post a notice near the caskets informing consumers that the warranties are available for inspection.

7. Alternative Containers. On the GPL, a funeral home must publish a mandatory disclosure regarding the availability of alternative containers for direct cremation customers. At the end of that mandatory disclosure, each funeral home must specifically describe the type of alternative container which it sells. The FTC is concerned that funeral homes are not specifically describing the particular alternative containers which they sell at the end of this mandatory disclosure.

6. Casket Catalogs. If the funeral home is using a catalog from a casket company as its Casket Price List, the funeral home should ensure that the catalog lists the funeral home's retail prices and that the first page contains the name of the funeral home, the words "Casket Price List," and the effective date of the price list.

5. Warning to Former FROP Members.
The FTC is making a special effort to conduct undercover shopping at funeral homes that are in or were formerly in the Funeral Rule Offenders Program. If a funeral home that was previously in the Funeral Rule Offenders Program is charged with a subsequent Funeral Rule violation, the option to join FROP a second time will not be provided. Rather, the FTC will charge the funeral home with a Funeral Rule violation in federal court.

4. Mandatory Disclosures. While it is important for funeral homes to provide the correct wording for mandatory disclosures on their price lists, the FTC will not typically charge a funeral home with a Funeral Rule violation for mistakes in the wording of mandatory disclosures.

3. Unloading Third Party Caskets. If a funeral home does not assist its casket wholesalers in unloading casket trucks, it does not have to assist shippers of third party caskets in unloading third party caskets at the funeral home. The funeral home is within its rights to advise the shipping company to either return with a lift gate truck or additional personnel to unload the caskets themselves. However, the funeral home should make available to the shipper a church truck to transport the casket into the funeral home.

2. Casket Price List Alert. In conducting its undercover shops, the FTC is finding more violations with a failure to hand out the Casket Price List in a timely fashion rather than the General Price List. Funeral homes must ensure that they provide a copy of the Casket Price List to the consumer upon the beginning of the discussion of caskets but, in any event, before showing caskets to the consumer.

1. Top Compliance Tip.
One of the easiest ways to abide by the requirement to hand out a Casket Price List in a timely manner is to simply combine the Casket Price List (and the Outer Burial Container Price List) with the General Price List. Funeral homes are permitted to place all of their casket listings and outer burial container listings on the General Price List. In such a case, the funeral home would have only one price list, thereby eliminating the risk that the funeral home employee will fail to hand out a Casket Price List and Outer Burial Container Price List in a timely manner. Mr. Tregillus strongly recommends that funeral homes eliminate their Casket Price List and Outer Burial Container Price List by combining casket listings and vault listings on the General Price List. Remember, if a funeral home places its outer burial container offerings on the General Price List, it also needs to place the mandatory disclosure from the Outer Burial Container Price List on the General Price List.

As a benefit of membership, NFDA members who have questions regarding Funeral Rule compliance may receive a complimentary consultation from Gilligan; he can be reached at at 513-871-6332.