Take Action: House Introduces Bill to Update the Funeral Rule
On March 12, the House of Representatives introduced H.R. 4213, “Funeral Rule Improvement Act of 2014,” which would update the FTC Funeral Rule to include all for-profit sellers of funeral or final disposition goods or services not now covered by the Funeral Rule.
Since the current Funeral Rule essentially only applies to funeral homes, consumers who purchase funeral or final disposition goods or services from other third-party sellers are not protected.
“The bill would essentially change the ‘and’ to ‘or’ in the definition of ‘Funeral Provider’ thus bringing under the FTC Funeral Rule all for-profit sellers of funeral or final disposition services or merchandise,” said John Fitch, senior vice president of advocacy for the National Funeral Directors Association.
“This has been a long-standing position of NFDA and we hope to move this bill through the House this year,” he said. “A Senate version also is anticipated later this year.”
According to Fitch, “if the original intent of the funeral rule remains valid, that is, to protect consumers from fraudulent and misleading practices, then Congress must apply those same rules to those sellers who are not now covered by the Funeral Rule.”
This would include all other non-traditional sellers of funeral or final disposition goods or services with the exception of religious organizations, state and local governments, cemeteries that do 25 or fewer burials a year and those non-profits who qualify under Section 501 (c) (13) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Although religious cemeteries would be exempt under the proposed bill, Fitch said it is unclear whether religious cemeteries managed by for-profit companies would be exempt. “The bill does not specify,” he said.
The last time a bill seeking sweeping changes to the FTC’s Funeral Rule was in 2011 when Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) has reintroduced a bill that would direct the Federal Trade Commission to adopt rules to regulate all cemeteries, crematories and third-party sellers of funeral and burial services and merchandise to the public.
This bill is “very different” from the Rush Bill, according to Fitch. “The Rush bill required the FTC to issue a separate rule for cemeteries and third-party sellers – a better approach but one that Republicans would not support. It also included all religious cemeteries. It also had quite extensive recording keeping requirements for cemeteries.”
Fitch said that Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) have signed on as co-sponsors. He said that other co-sponsors are expected.
The bill now goes to the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade for consideration.
NFDA members who want to urge their elected representatives to support H.R. 4213 can use the NFDA Congress-at-a-Click tool to do so. The process is quick and easy – an email has already been prepared, but you can customize it if you wish. Visitwww.nfda.org/congressataclick (login required) and send an email today!