In what may prove to be a lengthy legal proceeding, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed suit against Forever Network, Inc., an affiliate of National Prearranged Services (NPS). While the suit may duplicate the injunctions effected by the Agreed Order obtained by the Texas Department of Insurance, consumers should take comfort by the fact Mr. Nixon has begun taking action.
While it may be days before a copy of the petition can be obtained for review, I anticipate the pleading may share some of the same assertions and requests made by Texas. While this duplication may be confusing to funeral directors, the difficulty regulators face in bringing proceedings against NPS is that each regulator must establish the requisite authority for the remedies sought. For Jay Nixon and the Missouri State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors, Chapter 436 is full of ambiguities, making their case against NPS challenging (but not impossible).
The Missouri regulators have a stated goal of ensuring that consumers receive the services they have paid for. While Chapter 436 has its many faults, regulators should keep in mind Section 436.007.2, which provides:
If a preneed contract does not comply with the provisions of sections 436.005 to 436.071, all payments made under such contract shall be recoverable by the purchaser, his heirs, or legal representative, from the contract seller or other payee thereof, together with interest at the rate of ten percent per annum and all reasonable costs of collection, including attorneys’ fees.
NPS aggressively marketed preneed contracts on an installment basis that incorporated vague finance charges and “premature death discount fees”. These charges often drove the price of the preneed contract up by thousands of dollars. Justice would taste sweet if the Cassitys’ had to give it all back.