When faced with the death of a loved one, oftentimes people neglect due diligence when it comes to their rights as consumers. Whether they're consumed with the loss or just overwhelmed by all the decisions and preparations involved in funeral planning, many times researching and working on understanding your rights is lost in the process. But this is not the time to put your rights on the backburner. This is the time when consumers are most vulnerable, and there is no shortage of unsavory individuals who are more than happy to capitalize on one's weakened state. To fight this, Congress passed The Funeral Rule in 1982--a rule that is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. This rule sets the rights of consumers and establishes the framework by which funeral homes must operate. To date, however, The Funeral Rule does not apply to cemeteries, crematories, and other death-related vendors.
- In brief, the Funeral Rule establishes the following rights for consumers:
- Perhaps most importantly, the consumer has the right to buy goods and services separately.
- You have the right to choose only the funeral goods and services that you want, with a few exceptions.
- The funeral provider must provide to the consumer a written itemized price list which conveys their right to choose what they want. They must provide this before the consumer decides on the services that they want.
- The funeral provider must provide a casket price list before a casket is selected. This applies to outer burial containers , as well.
- Funeral providers must supply an itemized total for everything selected before the services are rendered.
- Consumers must not be required to buy anything that's not required by state law. Any goods or services required by state law must be clearly outlined in the funeral home's price list. A reference to the specific law must also be demonstrated in writing. Typically, consumers have the right to refuse embalming, but this varies depending upon individual state laws.
- The funeral provider is obligated to handle a casket or urn that the consumer had purchased from an alternate vendor. They cannot charge a fee for doing so.
- A funeral provider who offers cremations must make alternative content containers available to the consumer.
- Only one non-declinable "basic fee" can be charged by the Funeral home "basic fee."
- Funeral and cemetery laws must be accurately represented by the funeral home. They cannot lie or misrepresent such. Ask for a copy of the law if you are told something is required by law.
If you are not satisfied with the treatment or service you've received by a funeral provider, you are encouraged to contact the Funeral Consumers Alliance. The Funeral Consumers Alliance is a not-for-profit organization that offers advice on how to resolve issues you may experience with a funeral provider. The FTC avails a number of resources to the consumer that both guides them and makes them aware of their rights regarding funerals and funeral planning. You can find the links to these services at the resources page of our website, http://www.urnsofamerica.com/resources.
Todd Witengier is the V.P. of Marketing for Urns of America, an online provider of quality cremation urns. Browse and shop online by visiting our website at http://www.urnsofamerica.com