Did you know funeral homes are required by law to present you with a General Price List (GPL), Casket Price List (CPL), and Outer Burial Container Price List (OBCPL) whenever they are asked for, and before discussion of any services, goods, or prices takes place? This is a federal law. In fact, the law even dictates how the price lists are structured, mandates certain disclosures, and mandates where on the price list the disclosures must be placed. Funeral homes are not required to mail price lists to people who inquire by phone, but they are required to disclose prices by phone and provide price lists when such inquiries are in person, regardless of whether or not the person inquiring has lost a loved one, is a competitor, a journalist, or otherwise. Many funeral homes do mail their price lists upon request, and many even wisely publish their price lists on their websites. And when they don’t, they can get in a heap of trouble. A Westchester County funeral home learned this the hard way: John Balsamo, the owner of the Harrison Funeral Home was fined $32,000 and subject to two decades of increased mandated reporting as part of settlement of a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Attorney after they found repeated violations. The U.S. Attorney said the firm was first warned in 2001 that federal authorities knew they were not complying with the FTC Funeral Rule. However, undercover investigators were not given the price lists in four separate incidents in 2010. In a consent decree, the firm admitted to also failing to enroll employees in educational programs intended to prevent such violations. John Balsamo owns Harrison Funeral Home, along with Balsamo Funeral Home in the Bronx, and Balsamo-Cordovano Funeral Home in Carmel, Putnam County. In a Journal News article, the funeral home’s attorney said the firm had “staffing issues” and did provide hand-written price lists. They called the enforcement of the law- which dates back to 1984- a “shakedown of small business.” I don’t know Balsamo and can’t make any statements about his business practices because I’m not familiar with them. However, consumers should be wary about any professional who is unable or unwilling to disclose their prices. Would you deal with a mechanic who can’t tell you up front how much an oil change is? Would you close on a mortgage without knowing the terms in advance? Personally, I think failure to comply with the FTC Funeral Rule is unacceptable. It’s honestly hard to believe that there are still firms which struggle to understand or comply with a federal regulation which has been in place for 30 years. This is not advanced funeral practice we’re discussing here- it’s Funeral Directing 101. Sadly, such FTC Funeral Rule violations are not unusual. If you are planning a funeral for yourself or a loved one, take the time to read up on the FTC Funeral Rule. You are entitled to see all prices and charges in writing, and have written explanations for all charges. It’s not unusual, it’s not an imposition- it’s basic.