FTC holds workshop about debate over whether funeral prices should be posted online

WASHINGTON D.C. — When a loved one dies, grieving families are often left to navigate the difficult process of making funeral arrangements, but the cost of those services isn’t always clear or readily available.

On Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a public workshop to discuss the debate over whether funeral homes should be required to post prices online.

A rule passed in 1984 known as the Funeral Rule requires providers to give customers a price list document when asked for prices, but it doesn’t include any online requirements at this time.

“The consumers feel they have no, very little control in the process and that the industry I think it’s pretty obvious they want to maintain that control,” said Jim Bates with Funeral Consumers Alliance of North Texas.

According to the FTC, in 2021 the median cost of a traditional burial in the U.S. was $7,848 and the median cost of a cremation was $6,971.

The proposal to require funeral prices online is facing opposition from the funeral provider industry.

Barbara Poole traveled to the workshop in Washington, D.C. from North Carolina.

For 40 years, Poole said she ran a funeral home with her late husband.

“I think the Funeral Rule is wonderful but to mandate that we put things online is kind of a far reach,” said Poole. “There are funeral homes in the United States that don’t have access to internet.”

The FTC is now weighing the concerns of both sides of this debate.

“What you’re seeing is a stark disagreement between funeral service providers who do not want to be required to post prices online and say consumers who think why not,” said Lois Greisman, Associate Director in the Division of Marketing Practices for FTC. “These are tough decisions and that’s what today’s workshop is all about. Let’s lay out the issues and lay out the concerns.”

The FTC is accepting public comment on the topic until Oct. 10.

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