FTC Offers Guidelines for Basic Service Fee

Everyone take a deep breath – the wait is over.  After several months the FTC has provided an opinion (www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/funerals/opinions/opinion09-6.pdf) addressing the latest issue – Can a funeral service provider discount its basic service fee for minimum services, such as a Direct Cremation?  The answer is YES.  Good or bad, the FTC has decided that to restrict a funeral provider to its full basic service fee would “be inconsistent with the core purpose of the Rule, which is to enable consumers to purchase only the funeral goods and services they want by requiring funeral providers to ‘unbundle’ their offerings.”  The FTC cited other rationale, including language interpretation of the Rule.  The implications of this issue were extensive, as it could have affected how much funeral providers charge for their minimum services, such as direct cremation, immediate burial, receiving and forwarding of remains.  It was one of the first times the FTC ever looked at the right hand side of the GPL.  (Prior to this the FTC looked at the left hand side which is the language and not the right hand side which is price).  With this issue finally resolved by the FTC, it does raise one even bigger question –  Should a funeral provider discount certain services such as direct cremation?  Do providers actually do less?  What about all the increased liability?

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