By: NFDA General Counsel, Chris Farmer
Late yesterday afternoon, as the funeral service world was returning home from the NFDA International Convention & Expo in Baltimore, Maryland, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it would be conducting an online open meeting on October 20, just one week away. A link to the event will be available on October 20, shortly before the meeting starts via FTC.gov.
Among other items, the FTC will be voting on whether to retain the Funeral Industry Practices Rule (The Funeral Rule or the Rule) and issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on potential updates to modernize the Rule, including improvements to the public accessibility of funeral home price information. The Commission will also vote on issuing a staff report that summarizes the results of their review of almost 200 funeral provider websites.
The FTC has invited members of the public to share feedback on its work generally and bring relevant matters to its attention. Members of the public must sign up for an opportunity to address the FTC virtually during the October 20 event. Each commenter will be given only two minutes to share their comments.
Those who cannot participate during the event may submit written comments or a link to a prerecorded video through a webform. Speaker registration and comment submission will be available through October 18 at 8 pm ET.
The FTC sought comment on a litany of issues, including:
- Is there a continuing need for the Rule?
- What benefits has the Rule provided to consumers?
- Does the Rule impose any significant costs on consumers or businesses, particularly small businesses?
- What impact has the Rule had on the flow of truthful information to consumers and on the flow of misleading information to consumers?
- What modifications, if any, should the FTC make to the Rule to increase its benefits or reduce its costs?
- How would these modifications affect the costs and benefits of the Rule for consumers and businesses, particularly small businesses?
- Are any of the Rule’s provisions are no longer necessary?
- What potentially unfair or deceptive practices, not covered by the Rule, related to funeral goods and services, are occurring in the marketplace? Are they prevalent in the market and what is their impact on consumers?
- Should the FTC broaden the Rule to include products or services not currently covered?
- What modifications, if any, should be made to the Rule to account for current or impending changes in technology or economic conditions? How would these modifications affect the costs and benefits of the Rule for consumers and businesses, particularly small businesses?
- Should all funeral providers be required to post their itemized GPLs, CPLs or OBCPLs online?
- Alternatively, should they be required to provide an email address or other online mechanism for a website visitor to request the itemized price list information electronically and be subject to a time limit for replying to such requests?
- If a funeral provider makes funeral arrangements without an in-person meeting (such as through a phone call, website, email, or text), should the funeral provider be required to provide an electronic copy of its itemized GPL, CPL, or OBCPL prior to a consumer making any selections?
- How would any of these suggested technological modifications affect the costs and benefits of the Rule for consumers and businesses, particularly small businesses?
- Should funeral providers be required to provide their itemized price list information and disclosures in a standardized format? If so, how should a standardized format be developed and updated as the marketplace changes?
- If the Rule was modified to include a standardized format for some or all of the itemized price list information and disclosures, should use of such a form be a safe harbor for the Rule’s price list requirements for a funeral provider?
- What, if any, modifications should be made to the Rule in light of new and developing processes for human remains disposition? Should the definition of “cremation” in the Rule be amended to reflect these new processes?
- If changes should be made to the Rule to permit the addition of some goods or services to the direct cremation or newer forms of human remains disposition arrangements without requiring the funeral provider charge the full basic services fee, what additional goods or services should be included?
- Should any of the mandatory disclosures be modified to improve clarity?
- What impact, if any, has the FTC’s policy of referring first-time violators to the National Funeral Directors Association’s Funeral Rule Offenders Program (FROP) for compliance review and training had on compliance with the Rule? Would publication of some or all of the names of those funeral providers participating in the FROP program increase compliance with the Rule? Would such publication benefit in other ways consumers shopping for funeral services?
- Should the Commission broaden the Rule to apply to cemeteries?
A complete list of the issues submitted for comment may be found here.
The FTC received more than 785 comments including NFDA’s comprehensive responses to the FTC’s request. NFDA’s response may be found here.
NFDA’s comments were based upon its long-held positions on the Funeral Rule’s price list distribution requirements, the need for a variable basic service fee, allowing funeral directors to charge a fee for coordinating the delivery of third-party merchandise, and opposing the mandatory posting of GPLs on funeral home websites, among others.
Currently, NFDA’s General Counsel Chris Farmer, is working with the NFDA Board of Directors, association members, CEO Christine Pepper, Senior Vice President of Advocacy, Lesley Witter, to prepare comments to be made at the meeting. Additionally, NFDA is working with state associations, other leaders in the profession, and other funeral service associations to coordinate a unified response to ensure that the funeral service profession’s voice is heard loud and clear.
We will be providing you with updates after the meeting, so please keep an eye out for upcoming NFDA communications.
More information on the Funeral Rule may be found here.