The cost of burying a loved one in America has risen faster than virtually everything else over the last 30 years.
The days after a loved one dies are terrible for making smart financial decisions.
You may not be thinking clearly. You want to do everything possible to honor the person who died. And you have little time to plan something as expensive as a funeral.
To make it worse, only one out of six funeral homes post full price lists online, making it difficult to compare costs, a new survey by the Funeral Consumers Alliance and Consumer Federation of America of 26 U.S. cities found.
Without the ability to shop online, you may spend far more than you planned on a burial or cremation, the consumer groups warn.
“Faced with grief, American families often emerge from the arrangements office in sticker shock,” the report states. “Many grieving people are loathe to question the price tag, though they may regret it later.”
How much could you overspend?
Costs for funeral services can vary by thousands of dollars even in the same city.
In Tucson, for instance, funeral homes that fully disclosed prices on their websites charged about $3,500 for a full-service funeral, a 2017 report by FCA and CFA found.
That was roughly $1,100 less expensive for the same service than at other Tucson funeral homes.
Similarly, a simple cremation with a container cost about $765 at Tucson funeral homes whose prices were displayed online, a savings of $230 over funeral homes without transparency.
How can you compare funeral prices?
You can receive a full price list by visiting a funeral home in person or requesting costs over the phone, thanks to federal law.
Additionally, Arizona law requires funeral homes to provide price lists upon request by mail.
A faster way to compare is to look online at price surveys by the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Arizona. Go to http://tucsonfunerals.org/pricing/ and choose your region. Unfortunately, the northern and central Arizona price surveys are less detailed than the southern Arizona list.
You can also call the Arizona Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers for questions and recommendations about services. Call 602-542-3095 or go to https://funeralboard.az.gov.
To save even more, research costs ahead of time and talk with family members about your funeral preferences, no matter how old you are. Then put those decisions in writing.
Planning now could save your family a lot of money later.
Do any funeral homes post prices online?
Some do, but not all.
In 2013, California became the first state to mandate funeral homes post services they offer on their websites.
The Federal Trade Commission is currently reviewing its funeral home regulations.
The consumer groups are urging the FTC and 49 other state legislatures to take action to require online posting of prices.
“Honestly, if car dealers can do this with an enormous amount of rolling stock we believe funeral homes can do it too,” Funeral Consumers Alliance Executive Director Joshua Slocum said in an interview. “It takes literally the effort to swipe a few times or click with a mouse.”
The FTC and states also need to require prices to be prominently displayed on the funeral home’s homepage, he added.
Some funeral homes in California have gotten around the law by placing the price list in small font, at the bottom of the homepage, or in a section of the website that was hard to find, Slocum said.
“You often had to go three to four layers of clicks deep before you found it,” he said.
Should Arizona funeral homes be more clear?
Yes, according to the executive director of the Arizona funeral board.
“I absolutely agree the general price list should be posted on the internet,” said Judith Stapley, who noted she doesn’t speak for the board. “I think this is progress. People want to be able to go on their laptop at two in the morning and make funeral arrangements.”
“I wish with all my heart” that federal officials would take action, Stapley said.
Arizona lawmakers could, too, she said. Or the funeral board could propose a rule.
The challenge is convincing officials to add regulations, she noted. No bills on this topic have yet been introduced at the Arizona Legislature this session.
House Bill 2408, introduced by Rep. Paul Mosley, R-Lake Havasu City, appears to purpose to eliminate the funeral board altogether.
But Consumer Federation of America Executive Director Stephen Brobeck argues online-disclosure rules promote economic competition.
“If you are a true conservative who believes in competitive marketplaces, this is something you should consider and support,” Brobeck said. “There is probably no marketplace in America where the imbalance is greater.”
Have you been scammed or defrauded? Contact consumer protection reporter Rebekah L. Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our online form.
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