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Page 10

IFSA Newsletter

In case you missed it —

FTC Prohibits Most Casket Handling Fees

The Federal Trade Commission issued several important advisory opinions in August 2007 related to the funeral service industry. Officials stated that under the FTC Funeral Rule, "funeral providers are prohibited from charging a fee for (1) disposal of the container in which a third- party casket is shipped and from (2) charging a fee for storage of a third-party casket that is delivered when they arrive, several days before they are needed for a visitation or service. This applies only to "at need" arrangements and not to "pre-need arrangements."

The rule requires that funeral providers allow customers to use caskets purchased from third parties. Further, it prohibits funeral providers from charging "any fee as a condition to furnishing any funeral goods or funeral services to a person arranging a funeral," other than the basic services fee, payments for funeral goods and services selected, and payments for items required to meet legal, cemetery or crematory requirements.

When a customer purchases a casket from a third party, a funeral provider is prohibited from requiring that the customer purchase any other good or service, or pay "any fee" other than those permitted by the Funeral Rule.

Requiring customers who use third-party caskets to pay a casket handling fee would violate the rule. Likewise, requiring customers who use third-party caskets to pay a shipping container disposal fee or

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casket storage fee would violate the same provision of the rule. This applies only to "at need" arrangements made after death.

However, funeral providers can charge a storage fee if a third-party casket is delivered shortly after "pre-need" funeral arrangements are made by a consumer who "would not need the casket for some indeterminate time."

It is the FTC staff's opinion that a request for free storage of a third-party casket made in connection with pre-need arrangements would be "excessively burdensome." Consequently, a funeral provider would be protected by the safe harbor provision from liability for violating the rule by "failing to comply" with such a request and refusing to store a third-party casket for free for an indeterminate period of time.

In addition, it is the FTC staff's opinion that the Funeral Rule does not permit the use of two separate contracts so that the funeral provider can distinguish its own charges from "cash advance" charges for payments to third- party suppliers.

Providing two separate contracts would conflict with section 453.2(b)(5)(i) of the rule, which requires that, at the conclusion of the arrangement discussion, the funeral provider give the customer a written statement that lists the "Funeral goods and services selected, specifically itemized cash advance items," and "the total cost of the goods and services selected." Thus, providing information about cash advance items in a separate document and not in the primary statement would violate this rule.

However, section 453.2(b)(5)(ii) of the rule provides that the information required by section 453.2(b)(5)(i) "may be included in any contract, statement or other document." You are free, therefore, to format the statement in a way that clearly distinguishes the charges for cash advance items to be paid to third parties from the charges for the goods and services you provide.

Source: FTC Staff Opinions 07-4 (7/12/07):07-8 (8/21/07)

Deaths increase in first quarter 2007 Source: CFSA Newslette , January 2008

According to the CDC, total deaths increased 6 percent to 642,600 in the first quarter of 2007 from 606,238 in the previous

quarter.

This compares to 642,926 deaths in the first quarter of 2006 representing a statistically insignificant change.

Most states

showed quarterly increases.

Total deaths dropped in nine states.

Jan-Mar 06

Apr-Jun 06

Jul-Sep 06

Oct-Dec 06

Jan-Mar 07

2,705

2,608

2,589

2,799

2,747

Idaho information from “Actual State Deaths (as reported by CDC) January 2006 – March 2007”

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