The ICCFA continues to believe the Funeral Rule, as written, has achieved the founding goals the FTC intended, and as such the Rule does not need to be rewritten or modified. The Funeral Rule was created as a framework “to lower existing barriers to price competition in the funeral market and to facilitate informed consumer choice” and that framework provides the basis for not only past practices in the deathcare profession, but also allows for the inclusion of new trends in deathcare, such as the internet. If there are areas where more detail needs to be provided, then the ICCFA believes that States should be the ones issuing further guidelines and regulations, as they already oversee the deathcare profession in their respective State and are in a better position to determine what fits their needs.
Despite the ICCFA continuing to push for the Funeral Rule to stay as written, it appears that the Funeral Rule will be updated on some level to include several potential modifications. Rather than simply argue for no changes, the ICCFA believes it is important to offer solutions and suggestions for these changes proposed by the FTC. Listed below are suggested guidelines for changes to the Funeral Rule from ICCFA. These guidelines / proposals have been shared to all ICCFA members through a recent survey, and the following represent the results of the survey, and comments received from ICCFA members.
We encourage all members to read these guidelines and then share your own comments with the FTC. ICCFA has also provided its members with instructions on how to respond to the FTC request for comments. Members interested in responding should use these guidelines to help draft their own responses. We DO NOT recommend you simply cut and paste these comments and submit them. Instead, it is more helpful to draft your own response, and share a story or information that will help show why the changes will help or hurt your business and/or the consumer. You can let the FTC know you support the views and comments of the ICCFA, and then include your own reasoning as well.
If you have questions on any of the information included, the guidelines proposed by ICCFA, or the process of filing comments; please contact the ICCFA or Poul Lemasters, General Counsel firstname.lastname@example.org.
I. Online & Electronic Disclosures – Should the Rule be changed to require (a) all funeral providers (b) funeral providers that maintain websites or (c) funeral providers who sell funeral products or services online, to prominently display their GPLs, or a clearly labeled link to their GPLs, on their websites?
HOW to meet the requirement – The Rule should be modified to require that funeral providers who maintain a website under their control (as opposed to third-party sites like Facebook or Twitter) shall provide means on the website for consumers to request price information.
Funeral providers who do not have a website should be exempt from this requirement. Additionally, social media and advertisements should be exempt from the requirement because many of these platforms would not allow posting of a Price List and many of these platforms also are not always under the control of the business.
WHEN is the requirement triggered – The Rule should be revised to make clear that the obligation to produce price information under the Rule is only triggered when someone asks the funeral provider about pricing. (See additional Comment VIII regarding Timing of GPL and other Price Lists). We recommend that if a funeral provider completes funeral arrangements or a sale online, that funeral provider must provide its price lists online.
II. 3rd Party Crematory Fees and Additional Costs – Should all funeral providers be required to list third-party crematory fees in the description and price for direct cremation on the GPL?
This issue is addressed in the current Rule, so we recommend leaving the language as is. Crematory and other third-party costs are already included in the definition of Cash Advance Items and covered by the Rule. They must be presented to the consumer to the extent then known or reasonably ascertainable and itemized. If the prices are not known or reasonably ascertainable, a good faith estimate must be given, and a written statement of the actual charges shall be provided before the final bill is paid. Funeral providers are not able to control what third-party providers charge and should be compliant under the Rule so long as they disclose the additional fee at the time of contracting.
III. Reduced Basic Service Fees – Should the Rule be amended to clarify when funeral providers may charge a reduced basic services fee?
Yes, funeral providers should be allowed to offer reduced basic service fees, so long as the reduced fee is listed on the GPL and is based upon such things as the complexity and size of the funeral that the consumer requests. The funeral provider would not be able to charge more than their basic service fee but can reduce it. This merely an expansion of what the Funeral Rule already allows with services such as direct cremation, and immediate burial; but by expanding the Rule it could allow providers to have more limited-service options for the consumer.
IV. Alternative Forms of Disposition – Should the Rule language be amended to specifically address alternative forms of disposition, including alkaline hydrolysis and natural organic reduction?
While the Rule already covers disposition, and states have their own definitions for disposition, and what is allowed and not allowed, we recommend the language be revised to include other emerging alternative forms of disposition. We recommend that disposition become as neutral as possible allowing other forms of disposition as allowed by states. The language should be changed from, “Direct cremation” to “Direct Disposition or other forms of disposition as allowed by state law.”
V. Embalming Disclosure – Should the embalming disclosure contained in the Funeral Rule be amended to ensure consumers understand the specific circumstances in which embalming may be required under state law?
We recommend adding “refrigeration”: “Except in certain special cases as noted below, embalming and refrigeration is not required by law. Embalming or refrigeration may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing. If you do not want embalming or refrigeration, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement, such as direct cremation disposition or immediate burial, that does not require you to pay for it.”
We also recommend that if a provider does not offer embalming services (such as a cremation only provider), then it would not have to include the Embalming Disclosure.
VI. Price List Readability – Should the GPL, CPL, and/or OBCPL requirements be changed to improve readability for consumers?
We recommended that the Funeral Rule not be modified for this purpose as this matter is already addressed by Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as other state regulatory laws. We see no need for additional regulation.
VII. Impact on People in Underserved Communities – Are there any funeral provider practices that disproportionately target or affect certain groups, including lower-income communities, communities of color, or other historically underserved communities?
We recommend an update to the Funeral Rule that would allow, but not require, funeral providers to translate price lists and Statements of Funeral Goods and Services Selected into the languages of the communities they serve. However, Funeral professionals serve every community at every price point, and don’t refuse service to any population regardless of their race, creed, or background, therefore there are no communities underserved by the profession, and as a result we see no reason to update the Rule any further on this issue.
VIII. Timing Requirement for handing out GPL, CPL and OBCPL. (NOT ASKED by the FTC, but with other updates, this is an issue that should be addressed)
We recommend updating the Rule so that the trigger for when any price list is provided is based on the discussion of pricing. Currently, the trigger is based upon any discussion of funeral goods or services. This is a significant issue for funeral directors and would clear up one of the most confusing, subjective, and cited, elements of the Rule. The FTC should update the Rule with a more objective timing element of handing out the GPL, CPL and OBCPL; a timing element based upon the discussion of prices.
With an update of the Rule, and prices available to consumers online without having to talk or visit a funeral provider, the timing should be more defined and allow providers to provide a GPL, CPL or OBCPL upon the discussion of pricing. This will allow conversations among providers and consumers to be more natural, and less mandated by the immediate disbursement of pricing. The consumer will still be able to get prices immediately upon asking. If a consumer is concerned about prices and asks – this will immediately trigger the disbursement of pricing information. However, in cases where consumers just want general information, it will allow a provider to discuss their questions first, then once pricing is at issue, the provider can hand out any referenced price list.