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2021-Virginia Bill favors embalmers, limits competition

Senate Bill 1424 would require any funeral home manager to be a licensed embalmer. This restriction serves no consumer protection purpose. Instead, it protects and favors embalmers (as compared to non-embalmer funeral directors) who do not want job competition from non-embalmers. This competition would bring consumers greater alternative choices, as well as potentially lowering prices as firms would not have to pay the higher salaries commanded by embalming-trained managers.

There is no consumer protection purpose served by requiring the managers of funeral homes to themselves be embalmers. Hospitals do not require their CEOs to be surgeons, and airlines do not require their operations directors to be commercial pilots.

FCA opposes this bill and others like it that put a fig leaf of “consumer protection” over attempts to favor irrelevant or obsolescent professional classes that wish to avoid modernization.

Our letter of opposition to the Committee on General Laws and Technology, Virginia General Assembly:


to: Committee on General Laws and Technology, Virginia General Assembly

OPPOSITION—SB 1424, Managers of Record, Funeral Homes

Funeral Consumers Alliance, the leading consumer advocacy organization for bereaved families navigating the funeral transaction, opposes SB 1424. We ask the Committee to vote “no” on this bill.

• The bill would ban non-embalmer funeral directors from functioning as the Manager of Record for Virginia funeral establishments. There is no public protection purpose served by this.

• There is nothing that uniquely qualifies embalmers—as compared to non-embalmer funeral directors—to better oversee the business of a funeral home, to ensure compliance with state regulations, or to properly serve customers.

• This bill appears to be an attempt to stifle competition from non-embalming funeral directors in order to protect the favored position of funeral directors who are also embalmers.

• Embalming is not a legally required purchase in the Commonwealth of Virginia when alternatives such as refrigeration or rapid disposition of the body are available. There is no connection between expertise in embalming and the proper management of a funeral service establishment. As in all other businesses, supervising managers are able to contract for specialized services from third parties, or to hire employees with those skills directly; there is no rational reason to require the manager himself to be an embalmer.

• Embalming is a declining practice chosen by fewer consumer families every year. The bill would prop up an obsolescent skill to protect the prestige of a class of funeral directors invested in outdated and increasingly irrelevant practices.

• The bill would stifle competition from innovative funeral establishments that can bring alternative choices and lower prices to grieving families.

• Like so many other occupational licensing restrictions, this bill uses the legislative process to codify the desires of a class of merchants to be protected from market competition. Naked protectionism should not be afforded the fig leaf of “consumer protection” that statutory endorsement confers.