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FTC Issues Advisory Opinion on Computer-Based Casket Programs

FTC Issues Advisory Opinion on Computer-Based Casket Programs
By T. Scott Gilligan, NFDA General Counsel
October 3, 2007

The Funeral Rule was promulgated 25 years ago when very few in the funeral industry could have envisioned consumers selecting caskets from a computer-based program. Therefore, it is not surprising that compliance issues have arisen as some funeral homes have replaced casket display rooms and printed Casket Price Lists with computer-based programs that can show an unlimited array of casket options to consumers.

One critical issue surrounding computer-based casket programs is whether they may replace printed Casket Price Lists or if they must be used in conjunction with a printed Casket Price List. In other words, do funeral homes that show consumers caskets by way of a computer sill have to distribute a printed Casket Price List?

Unlike the General Price List, the Casket Price List (and the Outer Burial Container Price List for that matter) does not have to be given out to a consumer for retention. For that reason, the FTC recognized in the Funeral Rule that instead of using a printed Casket Price List, other formats, such as notebooks, brochures and charts could be used by the funeral home if they contain the same information as a printed Casket Price List. To determine whether computer-based casket programs would fall under this exception, NFDA submitted a request to the FTC staff for an advisory opinion.

On October 1, 2007, Craig Tregillus, the FTC Funeral Rule Coordinator, confirmed that presenting pictures of caskets and alternative containers together with price information by means of a computer is consistent with the Funeral Rule's provision permitting price information to be displayed in other formats. Mr. Tregillus did caution that the information required by the Funeral Rule would need to be displayed in a clear and conspicuous manner during the presentation on the computer.

It is important that funeral homes using computer-base casket programs ensure that the program includes all of the caskets and alternative containers routinely offered for sale by the funeral home. The computer-based program does not need to include caskets that require special ordering. The price of each casket and alternative container should be listed in a clear and conspicuous manner. Further information on what the FTC considers to be a “clear and conspicuous” disclosure in a computer-based program can be found at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/buspubs/dotcom.

If NFDA members have questions regarding this article, they should contact NFDA's General Counsel Scott Gilligan at 513-871-6332.