The Funeral Rule is a law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States. It is designed to protect consumers while they arrange funerals and consider options for disposition of a body. Under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors have certain obligations to consumers, and consumers are entitled to certain rights. Despite the Funeral Rule, some unscrupulous members of the profession do take advantage of consumers, and the FTC encourages consumers to report such incidents so that they can be investigated.
Under the Funeral Rule, consumers are allowed to pick and choose the services they want at a funeral home, although they may also opt for basic packages of commonly-requested services. If they appear in person to request information, the funeral home must provide a general price list which includes pricing information about all of their services, along with legal information related to the Funeral Rule, and consumers may keep this price list. Consumers who request pricing information over the phone are also entitled to hear relevant pricing information.
Consumers are also entitled to bring in coffins from outside sources, and funeral homes cannot refuse to use such coffins. The funeral home must also disclose any legal requirements related to the funeral, and they cannot falsely claim that something is required by law when it is not. The Funeral Rule also specifies that funeral directors must provide information about embalming, including the fact that it is not usually required by law, and they must provide prices and descriptions of caskets and urns before showing clients samples.
Prior to the passage of the Funeral Rule, many funeral homes were accused to taking advantage of consumers during a needy time. Funeral shoppers don't really have a great deal of time to research their options, and they may feel pressured into making certain choices. Many complained in retrospect that they had been pushed into costly funerals or decisions they later regretted. Many funeral homes were also specifically accused of misstating legal requirements for funerals, and of obfuscating their pricing and policies to mislead consumers.
The Funeral Rule was passed in 1984, in response to significant agitation on the part of individuals and organizations who were concerned about the growing costs of funerals. Many of the advocates who fought for the Funeral Rule were inspired by Jessica Mitford's groundbreaking The American Way of Death, a searing expose of the American funeral industry. While the American funeral industry was able to weaken some of the clauses in the original Funeral Rule, it was unable to defeat the Rule entirely, which meant that consumers enjoyed many more protections during a difficult time than they had before.