Compliance of General Price Lists with with Federal and New York State Regulations

The GPLs examined in the 2017 price survey were all in substantial compliance with the Federal Trade Commission's "Funeral Rule" and with the similar requirements of the New York State Department of Health, but few lists were in full compliance. All of the lists contained mandatory disclosures, and most of the prices were presented in a manner prescribed by the FTC. The lists varied in format, some being customized for individual businesses.

The most common violation of the Funeral Rule was a failure to list prices correctly for one or more of the following:

  • use of facilities and staff for viewing/visitation
  • use of facilities and staff for funeral ceremony
  • use of facilities and staff for memorial ceremony
  • use of equipment and staff for graveside ceremony

The FTC Funeral Rule specifies that one price including both supervision and use of facilities should be set for each of these services offered by the funeral home, while New York State requires separate pricing for supervision and for facilities/equipment for each of these listings.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Finger Lakes asserts that the New York State requirement for separate pricing of supervision and facilities/equipment for viewings, visitations, and ceremonies adds unjustifiable complexity to General Price Lists.

A common deficiency found in the GPLs was failure to state what kind of “alternative container” would be used if a customer chose this option. The FTC defines an alternative container as “an unfinished wood box or other non-metal receptacle or enclosure, without ornamentation or a fixed interior lining, which is designed for the encasement of human remains and which is made of fiberboard, pressed-wood, composition materials (with or without an outside covering) or like materials.” Where the type of alternative container and its cost are an issue, you should ask the funeral director for a description and the price of the one that will be used.

One funeral home violated the Funeral Rule and New York regulations by including in the price of direct burial both a casket or alternative container and a vault [see Table 1, footnote (j)], while no price for direct burial without a vault was given. Vaults are not required for all burials. They are sold by funeral homes, but any requirement for a vault is generated by a cemetery. The FTC requires that the following disclosure be added to a price list for vaults:

“In most areas of the country, state or local law does not require that you buy a container to surround the casket in the grave. However, many cemeteries require that you have such a container so that the grave will not sink in. Either a grave liner or a burial vault will satisfy these requirements.”

Another funeral home was in violation because its GPL did not list a lower price for direct cremation or direct burial when the customer supplied the container.