Attorney General Becerra Proposes Changes to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule to Provide Stronger Consumer Protections Within the Funeral Industry
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today, as part of a coalition of 22 attorneys general, submitted a comment letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposing changes to the Funeral Industries Practices Rule (Funeral Rule). The proposed changes in today’s letter would provide enhanced consumer protection by establishing better disclosure to assist families in making informed financial decisions. The changes proposed by the multistate coalition are especially important as consumers are facing immense challenges and the staggering loss of life caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency.
"No family saying goodbye to a deceased loved one should ever be ambushed by the fine print in a funeral services contract. That is even more true during these difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Attorney General Becerra. "We're urging the FTC to adjust its funeral rule to strengthen protections against deceptive business practices by funeral homes."
Today’s letter responds to a request for comments issued by the FTC as part of its regulatory review of the Funeral Rule. The coalition proposes that under the Funeral Rule, funeral providers should be required to:
- Post all of their itemized price lists – most importantly, the General Price Lists (GPL) – on any website that they use to advertise their services;
- Provide electronic copies of an itemized price list, on request, prior to the consumer making any funeral arrangement selections;
- Use a standardized GPL. While the Funeral Rule already mandates specific disclosures, funeral providers are currently not required to make these disclosures in any specific format or style, making cost comparison shopping difficult for consumers;
- Be permitted to charge a reduced fee for families that choose cremation along with a limited viewing or visitation, increasing consumer choice and potentially lowering costs;
- Clearly disclose that embalming is optional unless local law requires it, allowing consumers to make more informed choices;
- Place money received for pre-need funeral packages into a separate escrow account and provide consumers with annual statements about these accounts; and
- Disclose the average cost of a funeral.
California law already requires that funds from pre-need funeral packages be held in trust. In December 2019, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit against Neptune Society – a company offering pre-need cremation service plans for purchase prior to a customer’s death – for engaging in unlawful business practices and systematic misconduct in connection with the marketing and sale of those plans.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to ensuring that consumers are protected against unlawful business practices. In September 2019, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit against Paul Blanco’s Good Car Company, alleging that the company engaged in false advertising, made false statements on credit applications, and deceived customers regarding add-on products and additional charges. In June 2019, Attorney General Becerra announced a lawsuit against Texas-based ClubCorp Inc. for failing to repay more than $10 million owed to its more than 9,000 California members. In June 2018, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit against Navient and its subsidiaries for unlawfully misleading student loan borrowers, engaging in illegal collections practices, and steering borrowers to more costly repayment options. In November 2018, Attorney General Becerra led a coalition in sending a comment letter urging the Trump Administration to protect low and moderate-income communities against lending discrimination. In October 2017, he announced a lawsuit against the retailer Curacao for unlawfully preying on consumers across California. In November 2017, Attorney General Becerra sued Ashford University, and its parent company, Bridgepoint Education, for illegal marketing and collections activity, among other abuses; that lawsuit is pending in Alameda County Superior Court.
Attorney General Becerra joins the attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin in filing the comment letter.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.