Why Price Transparency Matters
As a report by two nonprofit, consumer advocacy groups makes clear, giving consumers transparent pricing for funeral and cremation costs will save them money.
Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Consumer Federation of America looked into prices in California where state law requires prices be posted online. But a loophole in the law meant 25 percent of funeral homes hid their prices from consumers.
As the FairWarning website article explains, the lack of price transparency has led to a huge spread of prices across the funeral home industry. For example, the report found cremations that cost as much as $4,115.
“It’s very easy to pay four, five, six times what we consider to be a reasonable rate,” Josh Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance told FairWarning. “I do not think $4,000 is a reasonable price for cremation.”
A 2016 study also found wide variation in cremation prices. The report’s authors use a restaurant analogy to explain why inclusive pricing is also important:
Imagine a restaurant offering a Friday lobster dinner special for $39.95.
If the restaurant followed funeral industry practices, the final bill given to a diner would appear this way:
Unlike many competitors, Solace Cremation will never charge hidden and surprising add-on fees. Our transparent and inclusive pricing means you know your complete cost will be $895, even if you have special requests. The only other fees you’ll face will be the cost of death certificates. Their price varies by state.
Consumers can fight back by being armed with information and questions. The Federal Trade Commission offers tips and advice on its website. The federal government’s funeral rule gives you many rights throughout the cremation process, including being able to ask for prices and use alternative containers for remains. The 1984 rule also prohibits funeral homes from being able to sell you unwanted items such as coffins, urns, or unnecessary embalming as Consumer Reports explains.
The FTC earlier this month began the process of reviewing the funeral rule to see if updates are needed. Many advocates have pushed to make the posting of prices online mandatory.
The AARP offers do’s and don’ts to avoid paying too much for a loved one’s arrangements.
For those looking to practice arranging a funeral, an event at Mount Hood Community College will let you do just that in March.
Photo by Alain Pham