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Federal government looks to strengthen funeral service prices disclosure rule

WASHINGTON DC — The loss of a loved one can feel like the world has come to a sudden halt. For those left to grieve, planning a funeral service while navigating the sorrow can be overwhelming.

Now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering strengthening the rule for funeral provider price disclosures by requiring businesses to also post their prices online.

Currently, a federal law known as the Funeral Rule only requires funeral homes to disclose prices to people in person.

According to a new report from the FTC, more than 60% of funeral home websites have little to no mention of pricing at all.

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“It’s long overdue that consumers would be able to get transparent pricing on funeral home websites,” said Teresa Murray, a consumer watchdog with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). “It’s been a problem for a number of years, but it became extremely apparent the need for this during the pandemic.”

We asked Murray what advice U.S. PIRG has for people planning funeral arrangements for a loved one.

“Take somebody else with you who is not as close to the person who died,” said Murray. “Somebody who is just a step or two removed from the emotions, and that person may be able to help you ask the questions you need to ask.”

Murray said it’s also key for people to know their rights when it comes to funeral home costs.

In response to the proposed rule change, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) said it has concerns that a firm federal rule won’t consider real-world challenges.

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“We are all for transparent pricing,” said Christopher Farmer, general counsel for NFDA. “That’s an essential part of the process.”

But Farmer said other factors such as whether small businesses with limited staff will be able to meet the requirements, and customer access to the internet, are also concerns that should be considered.

Farmer also said some customers may not get a true sense of the value of the services offered or all of the options available by just looking online.

The FTC wants to hear from the public about the proposed rule change and is now looking for public comment.

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