There has been a lot of discussion lately on what is required when someone calls and asks about funeral goods and services over the phone. While there is a good chance the Funeral Rule will be revised in the very near future (stay tuned!), here is a quick primer on the Rule as it exists:
- You must give anyone who telephones your place of business and asks about your prices or offerings accurate information from your General Price List, Casket Price List, and Outer Burial Container Price List. You also must answer any other questions about your offerings and prices with any readily available information that reasonably answers the question.
- You cannot require callers to give their names, addresses, or phone numbers before you give them the requested information. You can ask callers to identify themselves, but if they refuse to do so you still must answer their questions. You cannot require consumers to come to the funeral home in person to get price information.
- You can use an answering machine or answering service to record incoming calls. However, you must promptly respond to questions from callers on an individual basis.
- Example: Your answering machine can have a message telling consumers to call a specified number during business hours for information about prices and offerings. You need to provide the requested information when consumers call during those hours or you can have an answering machine or answering service take consumers’ names and phone numbers so that you can return the calls at your earliest convenience.
- You may have a (non-licensed) employee answering your phones respond to easier questions regarding your offerings and prices by referring to the printed price lists, but who refers more difficult questions to a licensed employee. If a licensed employee is unavailable when the call comes in, the employee can take a message so a licensed employee can return the call later.
- You do not have to give price and other information after business hours if it is not your normal practice to do so. You can tell consumers who call during non-business hours that you will provide the information during regular business hours. However, if a consumer calls after hours to inquire about an at-need situation, and it is your practice to make funeral arrangements during non-business hours, you should provide price or other information the consumer requests.
- You must give certain information to people who telephone, but the Rule does not require you to send callers a General Price List. Similarly, you do not have to send a GPL in response to mail inquiries about funeral goods and services. Of course, you certainly are free to send a GPL to someone who calls or writes for information if you wish to do so. However, if a telephone or mail inquiry is followed up by a meeting at the funeral home or elsewhere, you must provide a GPL at that time.
- It is important to note that in the most recent FTC secret shopper report, which was conducted telephonically for the first time, the FTC noted that they considered it a violation for a funeral home to promise to send a General Price List, but instead only provides a list of package prices that did not meet the requirements of a GPL. It is always important to remember, whether in person or on the phone, not to misrepresent any law or requirement.
While it is difficult to understand how an FTC secret shopper would interpret the open-ended requirement to “provide accurate information about your prices or offerings from your General Price List, Casket Price List, and Outer Burial Container Price List,” it is recommend asking any caller “do you have any additional questions” or “is there any other information I can provide you.”
It is also important to note that some states require funeral providers to mail a price list upon request. You should check to see what the requirements are in your state.
NFDA Member Benefit: Free Legal Consultations
NFDA has your back when it comes to navigating the complex maze of laws and regulations that you must follow. As a benefit of your membership, you are entitled to free legal consultations with NFDA General Counsel Chris Farmer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll be happy to answer your questions about the Funeral Rule or answer any other legal issue you may be facing.
Don’t miss the following NFDA Level Up Learning Webinars during which you can learn more about the laws and regulations that apply to you and your business. Level Up Learning Webinars are always free for NFDA members and $79 for nonmembers.
Top Legal Issues for Funeral Homes in 2024
May 15, 1-2 p.m. CT (1 CE Hour)
Presenter: NFDA General Counsel Chris Farmer
Join NFDA General Counsel as he reviews the top legal issues funeral homes need to be aware of in 2024. From right to control, to the Funeral Rule, to employment issues, Chris will make sure you are aware of the issues most likely to affect your business and the proactive steps you can take to safeguard against legal challenges. Register now!
Annual FTC Funeral Rule Review
June 12, 1-3 p.m. CT (2 CE Hours)
Presenters: NFDA General Counsel Chris Farmer and FTC Funeral Rule Coordinator Melissa Dickey
Get a peek behind the curtain to learn more about how the FTC operates, including the recent sweeps and the review of the Funeral Rule. Learn about the common issues that lead to FTC secret shopper issuing violations to funeral homes. Come prepared with your questions – Chris and Melissa will be ready to provide answers! Do not miss this rare opportunity to hear directly from the FTC on issues that are vital to funeral service and your business. Registration opens soon!