11/25/2009 — The Massachusetts Division of Public Licensure has found 25 percent of funeral homes they inspected were illegally hiding prices from consumers. Click here for the report, and the names of the accused funeral homes (and hats off to the state for such diligent work, and for making the information public).
Sadly, this isn’t a surprise. As we’ve noted for years, there’s widespread violation of the FTC Funeral Rule, even though it’s been in place 25 years. According to the MDPL, these funeral homes were violating the most basic, reasonable requirement of the Rule — the mandate to give consumers itemized price lists at the beginning of an arrangements discussion. Without that price list, grief-stricken families have no idea how much the funeral might cost, or what their options are.
Kudos to the MDPL—they sent out inspectors posing as grieving families to see how funeral homes really treated their “customers.” This a far better approach than showing up for an announced inspection, which alerts scoundrels to be on their best behavior.
Some funeral homes, and the state’s trade association, are keen to find excuses. According to the Milford Daily News, accused violator James. P Ginley said, “If I do something wrong, shame on me.” But the News noted Ginley “insist[ed] his funeral home was in compliance and the inspectors weren’t properly trained to know whether they were seeing real violations.”
Not likely. It takes no special expertise or training to know that failing to give consumers price lists at the beginning of the discussion is a clear, unequivocal violation of the Funeral Rule.
The Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association is insisting some of its member mortuaries must be innocent. “We firmly believe that many of these funeral homes will be exonerated as the process moves along,” David Walkinshaw, a spokesman for the MFDA, told the News.
Maybe, but on what basis does MFDA “firmly believe” this? Inspections from around the country reveal similar levels of FTC violations. It’s an ongoing scandal that so many funeral homes continue to deceive grieving people. A responsible trade association ought to at least express dismay, and promise to get to the bottom of the trouble. Scofflaws do no credit to any membership organization, and neither does making excuses for them.