The Federal Trade Commission Reveals New Consumer Guidance For Buying Funeral Services Over the Phone Or Online

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The death of a loved one is a traumatic experience. Families face dozens of decisions quickly and under duress, including what kind of funeral to hold.

Funeral homes, also known as mortuaries, are licensed by States and generally subject to some form of State regulation. They are required to give consumers a general price list upon request.


When a loved one dies, family members are often confronted with a series of quick decisions and arrangements that must be made under emotional duress. These decisions include the type of funeral to hold, which funeral home to use, what casket to buy and whether to bury or cremate the body. The Federal Trade Commission has released new consumer guidance for shopping for funeral services over the phone or on the Internet.

While many funeral homes offer a bundled package of commonly selected goods and services, consumers have the right to buy only those items that they select. The Rule requires that your firm state this right in writing on a General Price List (GPL).

You must also show a GPL to anyone who asks you about prices for goods and services, except when such persons are competitors or representatives of business, religious organizations, government agencies or consumer groups. Your firm must give the person a copy of the GPL for his or her information to keep.


The death of a loved one can be a devastating experience. Often, planning the funeral compounds that grief. However, it can help families cope with the loss and begin to move forward. A funeral director can help family members decide where to hold the service, whether a casket or urn should be used and how to celebrate a life. They can also help with the paperwork involved in a burial or cremation.

A funeral provider must offer a General Price List (GPL) to anyone who asks for it. This includes people who inquire via mail or in person. It must contain identifying information, itemized prices and other important disclosures. The GPL must be available in a printed or typewritten form, and it must be given to the consumer to keep.

The Board licenses funeral directors and embalmers; registers funeral establishments; investigates consumer/provider complaints related to the practice of funeral directing; and regulates mortuary schools and apprentices. In addition, the Board conducts inspections of funeral homes, embalming services and crematories.


The death of a loved one can be a stressful time for family members who must make many decisions on the fly. Sadly, some funeral homes can take advantage of families during this trying time and recommend unnecessary services or merchandise that drive up the average funeral cost beyond what a family can afford.

To avoid this, families should always shop and compare prices before making any purchases. Funeral homes must offer you a general price list and itemized statement of costs when you request it. This information must be offered by telephone as well.

In addition to cemetery plots, there are costs associated with opening and covering the grave, casket rental or purchase, memorial services, memory books and cards, and use of a hearse or limousine. Some of these items may be purchased outside the funeral home, reducing your total funeral expenses. In addition, you can save thousands of dollars by pre-planning your final arrangements or obtaining an inexpensive casket and urn.


A funeral home may carry a variety of insurance policies, including workers’ compensation for employees who suffer back injuries from lifting caskets. They also need a commercial property policy to protect the building, furniture and other items in case of damage. This type of coverage typically covers inventory such as urns, caskets and vaults.

Many funeral homes have licensed life insurance agents on staff who sell pre-need insurance. These policies are usually tied to a prepaid funeral contract and name the funeral home as the beneficiary. They offer more limited benefits than traditional life insurance and generally cap at $40,000 or $50,000.

Another option is a final expense policy that does not tie to a specific funeral contract. These policies are less expensive than preneed plans but require ongoing payments. Ideally, they should be whole life policies that accumulate cash values and stay in force until death. They are also available as guaranteed issue policies that do not require a medical exam or underwriting.

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