Everyone Deserves Transparency in Funeral Planning
All consumers deserve transparency in funeral planning, but up until now no one was willing to tackle this problem.
The federal government is supposed to regulate the funeral industry. They are supposed to act as a watchdog to ensure that funeral directors don’t take advantage of the vulnerability of grieving families. But in reality, the government is letting (some) funeral directors get away with shameful, dishonest practices that shouldn’t be tolerated – and certainly wouldn’t be in any other industry.
So as not to get ahead of myself, let me back up a bit …
Government Regulation: The FTC’s Funeral Rule
In 1984, the Funeral Rule was enacted by the Federal Trade Commission with the goal of bringing more transparency to the funeral industry by requiring funeral directors to provide adequate information to funeral planners. Specifically, the Funeral Rule requires funeral providers to give an itemized list of their prices to anyone who asks for it and accept caskets and urns purchased elsewhere without charging an extra fee. Additionally, it allows planners to choose the goods and services they want and don’t want (i.e. funeral directors can’t force the purchase of funeral packages).
Funeral Rule Violators
But many funeral homes simply refuse to comply with these regulations. The FTC knows about some of these violators, but because the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) runs the Funeral Rule Offenders Program, all those in violation of the government regulations are protected via anonymity. So instead of naming the funeral homes in violation of the Funeral Rule and indicating the extent to which they violated the regulations, the FTC simply states, for instance, “In Baltimore, Maryland, 1 of the 9 funeral homes inspected had significant violations.” Or “In Everett, Washington, 4 of the 11 funeral homes inspected had significant violations.”
And let’s say one of your neighborhood funeral homes has violated the Funeral Rule, what’s their punishment, for violating requirements for transparent and ethical business practices? The Funeral Rule Offenders Program gives funeral homes the opportunity to enter a three-year “training program” to increase compliance with the rule and make a “voluntary” payment to the U.S. Treasury and pay annual administrative fees to the NFDA. The alternative if the funeral home decides not to enter the program? An FTC lawsuit that could lead to up to $16,000 in fees per violation. Needless to say, I would guess that most funeral homes would opt for the training program and voluntary payment.
The Impact on Funeral Planners
To be clear – not all funeral directors or funeral homes are deceptive. In fact, I would argue that for the most part funeral directors are among the kindest individuals on the planet. Death never takes a day off and is never a joy to be around, yet these individuals have devoted themselves to helping families day in and day out with the most painful experiences of their lives.
But, the shadowy practices of the minority has a definitive impact on families, especially those who are unaware of their rights. Imagine needing to buy a car within 3 days. In this scenario, you have no idea how much one vehicle costs versus another (because the dealers won’t tell you), you have no access to consumer reports or online resources like prices, ratings and reviews (they just don’t exist), you have no time to test drive the cars, oh and by the way, your mom just died.
While the Funeral Rule was meant to bring transparency to the industry, it hasn’t done enough to help funeral planners scrambling during a time of crisis to make quick, expensive, emotional, complicated decisions. Not only does it not do it’s job of easing access to information that should be freely available, it also protects violators! Funerals run in the multiple thousands (the average cost for a burial, not including a plot or cash advance items is $8500+), and they’re one of the most important life-cycle events of our lives, yet families still have to make painfully tough decisions with limited time and virtually no information.
We started eFuneral in 2011 with the mission of helping families get the information they need to make truly informed funeral decisions. Mike Belsito, Co-Founder of eFuneral, experienced for himself what it’s like to plan a funeral completely in the dark. And that inspired him to transform the industry and bring transparency to funeral planning via free pricing information, ratings, and reviews, along with a resources center that includes helpful articles and videos.
Nearly two years later, we’re the leading provider of industry information, and we’re proud to help families plan with confidence … and save time, money, and headache at the same time.
If you need any assistance at all accessing the information you need to make informed funeral decisions, please contact us at anytime! Simply call us at (855) 338-6372 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to guide you every step of the way.
Leah Yomtovian Roush is the Senior Manager of Strategic Development for Cleveland, Ohio-based eFuneral, a comprehensive and free online resource that enables those thinking about end-of-life to research, plan, and arrange a wide variety of funeral-related services. Leah is the editor of eFuneral's Online Resource Center, and she manages the company's marketing efforts and develops strategies for company growth. Leah also serves on the Boards of multiple non-profit organizations, helping them expand their reaches and increase their impacts.