Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Online Funeral Planning - Should Funeral Homes Have To Post Prices Online?


Prices for the same funeral services in the same city can be double or triple those of a nearby funeral home. With that being the case, it is obviously in someone's best interest to comparison shop funeral homes to find the best price. But is that really what a loved one going through a difficult time wants to be doing?

Today almost everything can be purchased online, our bills, clothes, pets, the list is endless really. E-commerce appears to be the way of the future. However when the Funeral Consumers surveyed funeral home prices and disclosures in ten areas of the country, tracking down prices for 15 funeral homes in each area, including at least one part of a funeral home chain; the Alliance found 16% of the 150 funeral homes failed to disclose prices on a website, in response to an email or in response to a phone call. Not only that but Steve Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, found that in the same city there is a huge range in prices for essentially the same thing. 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. Direct cremation charges ranged from $455 to $3,390 in Seattle. Immediate burial charges ranged from $1,195 to $5,200 in Atlanta. And full-service funerals ranged in the District of Columbia ranged from $3,370 to $13,800.

“As an advocate who’s researched prices for consumer services for decades, I was stunned by the price differences. The huge price ranges for identical funeral services within individual areas indicate that these markets lack effective competition,” said CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck in a statement. “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.”

Because of these wide gaps in price, thirty-one years after the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule intended to make funeral home pricing more transparent became law, consumer advocates are calling on the FTC to require funeral homes to post prices online.

The CFA found just 25 percent of funeral homes post prices on the Internet, largely because they don’t have to. "Federal law only requires funeral homes to provide prices by telephone or mail—antiquated relics, the CFA says, of 1980’s rulemaking." 

Price transparency aside, with a younger more tech savvy generation up next, wouldn't it make more sense to have some kind of online funeral planning available anyways? With the baby boomers coming up as the next senior population, the funeral industry is going to be hit with a lot more business, and it will undoubtedly shake things up for the old ways things have typically been done. What is the future for the funeral industry? I can't say but change seems to be imminent!

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