California Leads in Transparency, But Loopholes Remain
The Funeral Rule requires all funeral homes nationwide to supply families with general price lists, but the law was written and amended before the Internet was so widely used by consumers. Because of this gap, searching for the cheapest cremation options and locating affordable cremation services must often be done by phone or even in person.
But though California has been a leader in price transparency for funeral homes, a recent survey conducted by the Funeral Consumers Alliance and Consumer Federation of America, revealed less than half of those surveyed posted their prices online.
About one quarter of the funeral service businesses took advantage of an apparent loophole that allowed them to list services and then only make prices “available upon request.” The largest funeral provider in the country made up the majority of these unhelpful websites.
These “price hider” funeral homes charged about a third more than their transparent competitors, the study found.
Consumer advocates say price transparency leads to lower prices. Without it, cremation service providers can charge as much as $4,000 by adding on hidden fees. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average cost of cremation including a basic container is $2,495 nationwide. Solace’s direct cremation price is $895.
The Federal Trade Commission is considering updating the Funeral Rule to mandate online posting. One FTC commissioner explains, “I worry that the rule is now showing its age, and I look forward to hearing from commenters about what a funeral rule for the 21st century should look like.”
Unfortunately, some consumer advocates fear the Funeral Rule itself might be on the chopping block at the worst possible time.
In the meantime, the FTC has helpful pricing checklists for consumers who are doing comparison shopping no matter what state they live in.
Photo by Mattia Bericchia