At an average cost of $7,000, funerals are one of the more expensive purchases made by consumers. In fact, “extras” such as flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgement cards or limousines can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line. During an emotionally-charged time, it can be easy to spend more than might be necessary. Even those consumers who are at ease haggling with a dozen dealers to get the best price on a new car, may feel uncomfortable comparing prices or negotiating over the details and cost of a funeral, pre-need or at need. Your Better Business Bureau recommends the following advice for navigating the funeral process.
Most funeral providers offer a variety of package plans that include products and services that are most commonly sold. However, it is important to remember that no package is obligatory and it is important to take the time, even though it may be constricted, to find the individual products and services that you prefer. The “Funeral Rule,” enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires funeral directors to give you itemized prices in person and, if asked, over the phone.
As outlined by the Funeral Rule:
· You have the right to choose the funeral goods and services that you want (with some exceptions).
· The funeral provider must state this “Rule” in writing on the general price list.
· If state or local law requires you to buy any particular item, the funeral provider must disclose it on the price list, with a reference to the specific law.
· The funeral provider may not refuse or charge a fee to handle a casket that you bought elsewhere.
· A funeral provider who offers cremations must make alternative containers available.
“Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions and read the contract’s fine print before you sign,” says Warren King, President of the Better Business Bureau. “If you feel as if you are being pressured into buying something you do not want or need, ask to speak to a different funeral director or go to a different funeral home.”
One way to reduce stress during a time of grief is pre-planning. The National Funeral Directors Association offers a Bill of Rights for Funeral Preplanning that its members follow. You do not have to prepay for a funeral in order to preplan one, although there may be financial benefits to doing so. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a Consumer Guide for Funerals.
For more tips, helpful information and to research a funeral home or mortuary’s Business Review, visit www.bbb.org.
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