DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS FUNERAL HOME SWEEP UNCOVERS MANY FUNERAL HOMES DENYING CONSUMERS LEGALLY MANDATED PRICING INFORMATION
Hundreds of Inspections Conducted as Commissioner Mintz Puts Industry on Alert and Encourages Consumers to Know Their Rights to Funeral Pricing Information
Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz today
announced the results of a two-month long investigation of the sales practices
of funeral homes throughout New York City. In the comprehensive enforcement
sweep, which included undercover investigations, DCA completed 579 funeral home
inspections and issued 275 charges to 87 businesses that received violations for
a compliance rate of 85 percent. The charged funeral homes could face more than
$230,000 in fines to the City.
Manhattan funeral homes had the highest compliance rate, with only 5 percent
of businesses receiving violations, while Brooklyn had the lowest compliance
rate, with 26 percent of businesses receiving violations.
“Coping with the death of a loved one is stressful enough, so planning a
funeral should be as simple and easy as possible,” said Department of Consumer
Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz. “New Yorkers have strong legal rights to
make purchasing funeral arrangements a straightforward process, including the
right to get clear and complete pricing information on a price list by the
entrance to a funeral parlor or even over the telephone. We urge New Yorkers to
call 311 if they believe a funeral home is taking advantage of them in their
time of need.”
“Commissioner Mintz has raised awareness of a deceptive practice that takes
place during what can be an unexpected and devastating period in one’s life,”
said Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. “There are steps that
consumers can take to avoid being victimized, such as pre-planning their funeral
and comparing funeral homes before making any decisions.”
Approximately three quarters of the violations issued, resulting from both
in-person and undercover phone interviews, charged funeral homes with pricing
deception including failing to have retail prices and price lists visible,
failing to provide prices over the phone, and not disclosing that consumers may
use or bring in a casket from a third party. Another top violation included
illegally displaying the least expensive caskets separately and more
unpleasantly than other, more expensive caskets.
DCA enforces the Consumer Protection Law and other related business laws
throughout New York City. Ensuring a fair and vibrant marketplace for consumers
and businesses, DCA licenses more than 71,000 businesses in 57 different
industries. Through targeted outreach, partnerships with community and trade
organizations, and informational materials, DCA educates consumers and
businesses alike about their rights and responsibilities. DCA’s Office of
Financial Empowerment is the first municipal office of its kind in the nation
with a mission to educate, empower and protect New Yorkers with low incomes.
DCA’s OFE administers a citywide network of Financial Empowerment Centers and
other products and services that help these New Yorkers make the best use of
their financial resources to move forward economically. For more information,
call 311 or visit DCA online at nyc.gov/consumers.
Dealing with the death of a loved one? Follow these
Get a price list. By law, the customer is entitled to a
general price list when conducting arrangements either in person or over the
phone. This list should include the prices for all services and merchandise
regularly offered by the funeral home. Consumers have a right to this
information before they commit to using a specific funeral home, so try to
obtain multiple lists and compare prices.
Don’t pay illegal or unnecessary fees. Funeral homes can
charge a fee for cash advance items or services, and merchandise the funeral
home pays directly to a third party, such as fees for the cemetery or
crematory, death certificates and clergy. The funeral home cannot profit on
these items. If you choose, you may be able to pay for cash advance items
You may be charged:
A custodial care fee, which charges the customer for the days the body
is being held, though no services are being performed.
A transfer of remains fee, which covers transportation of the body from
the place where the death occurred to the funeral home.
You have the right to switch funeral homes at any time.
You will need to pay for any services that have already been performed and for
which you have given approval. The funeral home must allow the transfer of the
body to another funeral home, even if you haven’t paid yet. It may not hold
the body in exchange for payment.
Get a receipt. Regardless of whom pays for cash advance
items, be sure to get a receipt for these items. When you have made all the
decisions regarding the funeral, you should receive an itemized statement of
services and merchandise, a detailed outline of the specific goods and
services you have chosen and the price of each item as well as the total cost.
This must include cash advance fees.
If you have your own casket, the funeral home is required by law
to let you use it.
In New York State, embalming is not required by
law. If you do not want embalming, you have the right to choose
an arrangement which does not require you to pay for embalming such as direct
cremation or direct burial. If you select certain funeral arrangements,
such as viewing or an open casket, embalming may be required by the funeral
home. This information must be included on the general price list.