Choosing the Right Type
of Service Provider
The funeral service profession has experienced dynamic change. A percentage of the community-based, family-owned funeral firms have been acquired by large, publicly-traded, national conglomerates. And many cemeteries, crematories, casket retailers, burial vault sellers and certain religious organizations—which in the past played partial roles in the funeral process—have now expanded to offer funeral services.
Possible Risks Involved in Choosing a Non-Funeral Home Provider
In many instances, cemeteries, crematories, casket retailers and other providers do not fall within existing funeral industry government regulations, including the FTC Funeral Rule. Consequently, while these alternative providers may arrange funerals and sell caskets, urns, outer burial containers and other merchandise, in many cases they do not have to provide consumers with advanced itemized prices for these goods and services. Nor must they make mandatory consumer protection disclosures, such as the fact that caskets are not required for cremation.
It is, therefore, very important that families seeking funeral services understand the industry landscape, the type of provider with which they are dealing and the scope of funeral goods or services the provider can supply, measured against the array of funeral goods and services the family may require.
Many cemeteries have transformed in recent years from sellers of burial plots to providers of funeral services. Some cemeteries now offer ceremonial services both graveside and at on-site chapels. These funeral services are similar to those offered by traditional funeral homes but may not be covered by the same protective regulations.
There are thousands of public, private, military and religious cemeteries in the United States. It is, therefore, very important that families recognize that cemeteries may not currently be under the same price and service disclosure regulations as funeral firms. In addition, cemeteries may not be required to make important consumer disclosures, such as the fact that the law in a particular state may not require the purchase of an outer burial container or other cemetery goods or services. Accordingly, families should assure themselves that they understand, request and receive an itemized disclosure of all cemetery charges in advance, whether dealing with the cemetery directly or making cemetery burial arrangements through a funeral firm. And families dealing directly with a cemetery should also ask whether a particular cemetery item or service is required for burial.
The cremation rate in the United States has risen significantly in recent years. It is expected that by 2015, cremations will represent more than 44 percent of all funeral arrangements in the U.S. (Source: Cremation Association of North America). Not surprisingly, there has been a parallel increase in the number of crematories in the United States. Some crematories offer direct services to families, while others primarily serve funeral firms or other funeral service professionals. And many funeral firms own crematories or have crematories on their premises. It is important that families considering cremation services explore and consider these various relationships, to ensure the best quality care possible.
Many direct retailers have emerged in the funeral service market over the past decade in the form of physical casket stores and internet-based sellers. These providers typically sell just caskets but, in some cases, may offer a range of services as well. Most direct casket retailers currently are not subject to price disclosure regulations. Therefore, consumers should be certain to obtain a price list for all available casket options they are considering.
Casket stores, in most instances, are not required to make important consumer disclosures like the fact that a casket is not required for direct cremation. Consumers dealing with direct casket retailers should always let a direct casket retailer know the type of funeral service they are considering and ask whether they should even purchase a casket at all. In this regard, there are many services for which a family can rent a casket from a funeral firm, and families should be certain to consider this option when dealing with a direct casket retailer as well.
In addition, consumers purchasing a casket from a direct casket retailer should understand the liabilities and obligations of the parties in the event of a failure to deliver the casket on time or delivery of a damaged casket, which could substantially impact a funeral service