The FTC’s second area of concern for Funeral Rule revisions is titled Crematory Fees and Additional Costs. For this post, we are going to look at Issues 16 and 17. Funeral consumer advocates are focused on the fact that many funeral homes do not own their own crematory and therefore outsource that service to a trade crematory. The consumer advocates want funeral homes to be required to disclose what they pay for crematory services. The intent here is to show what type of markup the funeral home charges on direct cremation arrangements (and other cremation arrangements). While these two issues do not reference trade embalming, we can see the advocates pushing for similar disclosures when embalming is also outsourced.
While there may be merit in a disclosure that a funeral provider must outsource cremation services, a requirement to post the crematory fee or a range of fees will be problematic. This would require funeral providers to update the price list not only for their own changes but also when each third party crematory changes their charges. In some service areas, funeral providers use multiple trade crematories. Their preference may depend on quality of service, prices and work load.
These two issues seem motivated by advocates’ desire to drill down in to GPLs to show mark ups in all cremation prices. While the issues are cloaked in ‘a discovery of direct cremation prices’, once the 3rd party crematory fee is disclosed assertions can be made about all of the provider’s cremation pricing. This goes deeper than the Funeral Rule’s intent. We think that consumers have a legitimate interest in knowing if 3rd party crematories are used, and who they are. Consumers would want to know of the quality of services provided by such entities.