Your Rights as a Funeral Consumer

This material is not legal advice by the Memorial Society of Northeastern New Jersey and is meant only as a helpful guide for funeral consumers.

In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) implemented the Funeral Industry Practices Trade Regulation Rule — commonly known as the Funeral Rule. The purpose of the Rule is to ensure accurate itemized price information for funeral goods and services and to create a more open and transparent relationship between the consumer and the funeral business, thus eliminating the secrecy that existed in the past. Listed below are some of the important rights guaranteed to consumers by the FTC rulings.

  1. The Right to obtain a General Price List (GPL).
    The Funeral Rule requires that a mortician give a GPL to anyone who appears in person
    and asks about their funeral goods, services, and prices. The Rule applies to anyone,
    not just potential customers entering the funeral home.
  2. The Right to select ONLY those goods and services that you desire.
    You have a right to choose only those goods and services that you want or can afford.
    For instance, you may select a simple casket over a more expensive one or even a less
    costly cremation casket for an earth burial.
  3. The Right to an Explanation of the itemized prices on the GPL by the funeral director.
    This right allows the consumer to comparison shop and select only those goods and services they wish.
    While packages may be offered, the Rule allows them only in addition to, not instead of, itemized pricing.
  4. The Right to a Written Statement of your choices.
    The funeral director must give you a statement listing all goods and services you have
    selected, the price of each, and the total cost, — immediately after you make your arrangements.
  5. The Right to Decline Embalming.
    Embalming is a process by which bodily fluids are replaced with preservatives.
    Many funeral homes require it when a viewing is chosen, though in most cases, refrigeration is an acceptable alternative. Consumers have the right to choose direct cremation or immediate burial without a viewing, for which no preservation is required. If the disposition is delayed beyond 48 hours after death, a funeral home without refrigeration may insist on embalming.
  6. The Right to Direct Cremation or Immediate Burial.
    The Funeral Director must include in the GPL, prices for direct cremation and
    immediate burial, the simplest type of funeral arrangements. Both are without viewing,
    embalming, visitation or other ceremony with the body present.
    The Memorial Society of Northeastern strongly endorses these forms of funeral arrangements.
  7. The Right to use an Alternative Container, or simple box,
    instead of a more costly casket for the cremation process.

    The entry for direct cremation on the GPL must have a disclosure that the consumer has the right to an alternative container. There must be a price quote for a cremation with a container purchased from the funeral home and one for cremation where you provide your own container.
  8. The Right to receive a Casket Price List (CPL) before you are shown any caskets.
    The Funeral Rule states that all caskets and alternative containers,
    whether for burial or cremation, must be listed on the same CPL.
    The consumer has the right to study the CPL before discussing any options or seeing any caskets.
  9. The Right to select a grave liner instead of a coffin vault.
    Most cemeteries require that a casket be placed in a reinforced concrete box,
    called an outer burial container.
    This container keeps the gravesite from sinking as decomposition occurs.
    There are two types of outer containers — grave liners and coffin vaults — and both satisfy cemetery requirements. However, coffin vaults can cost at least twice as much. You have the right to choose the less expensive grave liner.
  10. The Right not to be charged a handling fee if you purchase a casket outside the funeral home.
    The funeral director cannot refuse to accept a casket that you have purchased elsewhere, such as online or in a casket store, or insist on a casket handling fee.
  11. The Right not to have funeral goods or services misrepresented
    with false or misleading statements.

    Caskets and outer burial containers with warranties may not be worth the extra cost
    and the funeral director is prohibited from stating that certain caskets or coffin vaults
    will delay the natural decomposition of human remains indefinitely.

The Memorial Society of Northeast New Jersey urges that you plan ahead with funeral arrangements and always remember your Right of Selection. You have the right to select only those goods and services that you can afford and which conform to your wishes and beliefs.

For further information about planning funerals, go to the FTC website:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro26.htm