A new report issued by the Federal Trade Commission or FTC found that funeral home fraud increased in 2014.

According to a report on APM’s Marketplace, roughly 1 in 4 funeral homes failed compliance checks by undercover investigators. Those who fail have the option of training their employees in proper compliance through the National Funeral Directors Association, or face civil court action and fines.  Last year, a Westchester county funeral home paid $32,000 in fines for its lack of compliance.

The FTC’s Funeral Rule is pretty straight forward: consumers must be presented with a physical copy of the funeral home’s General Price List before arrangements are made or discussed, must be provided with a Casket Price List before viewing and selecting caskets,  and must be provided with an Outer Burial Container Price List before viewing and selecting an outer burial container or vault. Prices must be disclosed on the phone by request, and consumers do not need to provide their name or phone number in order to get them.

The Funeral Rule also prohibits funeral homes from packaging services such that consumers are forced to buy products or services they don’t want or need. For instance, if you choose to have a cremation promptly after death, with no viewing or other services, a funeral home can’t require you to purchase embalming or a casket.

It was disappointing to see that the National Funeral Directors Association‘s response to this report was the rule is “complicated” and that it is “easy to slip up.”

The FTC Funeral Rule was implemented in 1984. It is impossible to become a licensed, professional  funeral director without learning about the FTC Funeral Rule extensively. Of the funeral directors who were working before the rule went into effect… well, they’ve had over 30 years to learn how to work with it. The Funeral Rule is the subject of countless continuing education courses, which funeral directors in almost every state are required to take on a regular basis.

It is not complicated to have a discussion about funerals and present a client with a price list. Even staff who are not funeral directors can be easily trained- one would assume they are given instructions on how to interact with clients anyway, the funeral rule should be part of that.

If you attempt to make arrangements or inquire about prices and don’t receive a straightforward answer and a price list, that should give you serious pause. What other regulations and requirements is this establishment choosing to ignore? Where are corners being cut? Does the wellbeing of the families they serve really seem like the primary focus?

Get educated, and know that it’s always ok to choose another funeral home if you feel uncomfortable or see the law is not being followed.