Surprisingly, the Federal Trade Commission accepted some truly bizarre funeral industry assertions when deciding which properties funeral giant Service Corporation International (brand name: “Dignity Memorial”) has to sell off in order to merge with its competitor, Stewart Enterprises. Industry experts push the line that consumers don’t choose cremation over burial because of price, but because of “personal” or “religious” reasons. This is plain nonsense; price is one of the top factors consumers cite when they pick cremation over burial.
Somehow the FTC found this “logic” persuasive, and it affected how they decided which funeral businesses SCI has to divest. From the FTC’s consent order:
“Funeral services do not include cremation services because consumers do not substitute cremation services for burial services based upon price, and the competitive conditions for cremation
services are substantially different than other funeral services. Since consumers primarily choose their final disposition on their personal or religious views, consumers generally do not view cremation services as a viable substitute for funeral services.”
This is remarkable. It completely contradicts the experience of consumers and consumer advocates like FCA. We have to wonder whether the Federal Trade Commission has any idea at all what choices the average American family has to make when death comes, and how tight budgets affect those. Americans do not have unlimited money to spend on funerals, and huge numbers of people have switched to cremation for its affordability as compared to casketed cemetery burial.
FCANT President Jim Bates examines this in more detail in commentary submitted to the FTC, reproduced below.