National Survey Results

Yesterday, October 19, 2015, the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) held a press conference and released a nationwide funeral home price study. The purpose of the study was to show how difficult it is to compare burial and cremation prices among funeral homes because most funeral homes don't post their prices for such arrangements on their websites. The second and possibly most important reason the study was done was the put pressure on the Federal Trade Commission to update its Funeral Rule to join the 21st century.  Previously the Funeral Rule only dictated that a funeral home provide its prices if a consumer came to its door. We at People's Memorial with the FCA and CFA believe that since consumers shop for everything on the internet and funeral homes should post their pricing on their websites.  

People's Memorial Education Fund conducts a statewide funeral home price survey every two years.  We supplied the prices for Seattle to be included in the national study in early 2015. Below is information from our own Washington state survey:

In late 2014, the PEOPLE’S MEMORIAL (PMA) Education Fund conducted its survey of funeral home pricing based on 21st century technology.  The Education Fund searched all of Washington funeral homes that: 
1) handled 5 or more cases in 2013
2) had a website
3) had pricing on the website or were willing to send its prices via email  

This survey is based on those 105 Funeral Homes that fit all of the criteria. his 2014 Survey discovered that cremation prices vary by as much as 700%. Burial prices vary by over 400%. The study reinforces the importance of consumers shopping around and planning ahead to assure that they receive the final arrangements that they want at a price they can afford.

The average cost for Direct Cremation in the state is $1,173 and ranges from $490 to $3,390

The average price of Direct Burial is $2,195, with prices ranging from $895 to $4,090.

A Complete Funeral service with embalming, viewing, services and basic casket averages $3,785, as low as $1,900 and as high as $8,465. 

Visit here for the complete Washington state survey

PMA's Executive Director, Kathy Long, featured on KIRO 7 October 19, 2015

FUNERAL HOMES CHARGE A WIDE RANGE OF PRICES, BUT MOST FAIL TO DISCLOSE THESE PRICES ADEQUATELY (OR EVEN AT ALL), ACCORDING TO A NEW NATIONAL SURVEY

Funeral Consumers Alliance and Consumer Federation of America Call on the FTC to Update Antiquated Disclosure Rules

Washington, DC – Today, the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) released a report based on a national survey of the prices and price disclosures of a representative sample of 150 funeral homes from ten different regions of the country.  The survey revealed significant price differences – for example, from $2,580 to $13,800 for a full-service funeral -- and the failure of most funeral homes to disclose their prices adequately:  Only 38 of the 150 homes (25%) fully disclosed prices on their websites, while 24 (16%) failed to fully disclose prices both on their website and in response to an email and a phone call.

“Most funeral homes need to give consumers much better access to price information,” said Josh Slocum, FCA’s Executive Director.  “The Federal Trade Commission should update antiquated disclosure rules developed in the pre-Internet 1980s, just as California has successfully done,” he added.  For example, California requires funeral homes to disclose on their websites the same prices the FTC requires funeral homes to disclose by phone or in an in-person visit.  Thirteen of 15 surveyed California funeral homes fully disclosed prices on their websites.

“The huge price ranges for identical funeral services within individual areas indicate that these markets lack effective competition,” noted Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s Executive Director.  “The lack of price competition is unfortunate given the relatively high cost of funeral services and the reluctance of many bereaved consumers to comparison shop for these services,” he added.

The research was undertaken this year by FCA with assistance from its local affiliates in Atlanta, District of Columbia, Philadelphia, Mercer Co. (NJ), Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Denver, Tucson, Orange Co. (CA), and Seattle.  In each of these ten areas, 15 funeral homes were randomly selected for study, making certain that at least one home from any large chain was included.  The researchers searched the websites of these funeral homes for price information.  If the website failed to disclose prices completely, the researchers emailed the funeral home for these prices.  If the email did not elicit the price information, the researchers phoned the funeral home.  In several instances, a researcher visited the funeral home to obtain price information.

Prices Vary Significantly, Even Within Individual Areas

Three types of service were priced – direct cremation without ceremony, immediate burial without ceremony or the cost of a casket, and full-service funeral including the following items:  basic services of the funeral director and staff, transport of the body from place of death to funeral home, embalming, other preparation of the body, viewing or calling hours, funeral ceremony with casket present, hearse to cemetery, sedan or limousine for family, and graveside ceremony.

As the table below shows, prices for the same funeral services within individual areas almost always varied by at least 100 percent and often varied by more than 200 percent.

Table 1:  Low and High Prices ($s) for Funeral Services

“Since each area has dozens of funeral homes, the range of prices is certainly greater than that revealed by our sample of 15 homes in each area,” noted CFA’s Brobeck.

Price Disclosures Often Incomplete and Difficult to Obtain

Researchers examined whether a complete general price list was included on the website of funeral homes.  If the funeral homes did not do so, the researchers sent them an email requesting the price information.  If the funeral homes failed to respond or responded inadequately, the researchers called them.  Despite these efforts by researchers, some funeral homes did not provide any price information or provided this information only in a personal visit.

The table below reveals the extent to which funeral homes in the sample disclosed prices fully and how these prices were obtained.

The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule was issued in 1984 and amended in 1994.  It requires funeral homes to provide only price information over the phone or a price list to those visiting the home.  It does not require disclosure on the websites of funeral homes.

“The FTC needs to require funeral homes to disclose prices clearly and completely on their websites,” said FCA’s Slocum.  “This disclosure will greatly increase consumer search for price information.  It will also allow journalists, consumer information services, and consumer groups to much more easily research, compare, and report on prices,” Slocum added.

FCA and CFA are submitting this research to the FTC and are urging the agency to update the Funeral Rule.
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FCA is nonprofit organization founded in 1963 to protect the consumer’s right to choose a meaningful and affordable funeral.  More than 70 local educational groups are included in FCA’s national federation. Link to original article

CFA is a nonprofit association of more than 250 pro-consumer groups that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education.

Get full survey results city by city here