Consumer Groups Find Few Funeral Homes Post Prices
A new report by the Consumer Federation of America and the Funeral Consumers Alliance shows only a small percentage of funeral homes post prices online, making price comparison more difficult for families.
In a survey of over 1,000 funeral businesses in 35 states across the country, the groups found only 18 percent of funeral homes posted price lists on their websites.
California is the only state that mandates online posting of price lists. But even there, loopholes exploited by some funeral homes make obtaining prices more difficult.
The two consumer groups are urging a change to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule to require posting in every state. The Funeral Consumers Alliance’s Josh Slocum tells Solace, “The Rule was written in the late 70s, before the Internet. I’m pretty sure that if the Internet had existed when it was written, then funeral homes would have been mandated to post prices online.”
Slocum says mandating this would be an easy update to the Rule. “If funeral prices were as comparable online as every other item or service is, it could do more for the consumer’s ability to control costs than the original Rule itself.”
Many funeral homes only make the price list available if you visit in person. “Most consumers, especially those out-of-town or having to deal with a sudden death, cannot practically visit several funeral homes to pick up price lists,” Slocum adds.
On top of the inconvenience, customers are understandably under stress after a loved one’s death which makes them targets for “upselling.” Slocum explains, “An emotional customer, and a customer who lacks knowledge of what he’s buying, is an easy customer to upsell. There is no other purchasing situation I know of where the customer is this compromised by understandable emotion.”
Researchers said higher transparency was evident in western states, especially in California where it is the law. “It is possible that funeral homes in areas with younger populations and more dynamic economies are more receptive to posting prices online,” the report’s authors write.
In separate polling commissioned by the groups, 75 percent of consumers said they would like mandatory online price disclosures.
“Online price posting would benefit not just those consumers searching for price information, but also all consumers by encouraging price competition and discouraging funeral homes from charging exorbitant prices,” said Stephen Brobeck, a CFA Senior Fellow and the report’s co-author.
In earlier research by the two groups, price differences of 400 and 500 percent were found for the same service. The wide range of prices is due in part to a lack of clear consumer information, the groups say.
None of the more than 100 funeral homes owned by the largest nationwide funeral corporation posted their prices online in the latest survey.
Meanwhile, the consumer groups urge families consider giving their business to those companies that do post their information online.