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Funeral consumer-protection rules broken

Posted at 10:15 PM, Oct 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-24 08:19:54-04

Compared to the funeral homes caught hiding human remains, a few technical policy violations may not seem like a big deal.

But federal investigators said several Mid-Michigan funeral homes were breaking rules designed to make sure customers don't get ripped off.

The violations range from the wording used on a customer price list to not giving the price list in a timely fashion.
Several of the homes said they think the policy itself is a problem.

"I was a little surprised I thought we were doing pretty well with it, obviously we weren't according to the rule," said Curtis Keck, Keck-Coleman Funeral Home Owner.

Keck-Coleman Funeral Home is one of seven Lansing area homes that violated the Funeral Rule.

"Its to allow consumers to know clearly and specifically what a funeral home charges are, to know what they can select, and to know at the end of the arrangement what they have selected and what the total charges are so there is no confusion," said Phil Douma, Michigan Funeral Directors Association Executive Directors.

Violations can include things like not giving clients a price list the moment they walk through the door.
The Federal Trade Commission uses secret shoppers to catch rule-breakers.

"The Federal Trade Commission wants consumers to be able to compare prices in "apples to apples" format. so it's very very detailed and it includes certain disclosure to the consumer. the federal gov requires that those consumers must be exactly word for word, comma for comma, identical in every funeral home," said Douma.

Paradise Funeral Chapel and Arrangement Services wasn't in compliance. A spokeswoman said there's room for ambiguity in the rules.

"Because a lot is left to interpretation, which is why there work is constantly being done by not only by the National Funeral Directors Associations and Michigan Funeral Directors Associations. So it's clarified that there is no doubt or if there is it's very very minimal," said Mary McDonald, Spokeswoman Paradise Funeral Chapel and Arrangement Services.

The Michigan Funeral Directors Association agrees and is working with the government to get some clarification.

"One person posing as a shopper might find that that trigger point is at one stage of the conversation, while another might decide that it's not," said Douma.

Both homes said they will work to get on the right side of the rule.

"We do take very seriously what occurred, we do take very very seriously," said McDonald.

Lansing area funeral homes that are in violation with the Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule include Nelson-House Funeral Home, Keck-Coleman Funeral Home, Holihan Atkin Backlay Funeral Home, Skinner Funeral Home, Paradise Funeral Chapel and Arrangement Services, Gorsline Runciman Funeral Home, Peters and Murray Funeral Home.

They told News 10's Alani Letang that they have participated in the training and will continue to work with staff to make sure the rule is followed.

Click the link below to read the Funeral Rule, and what your rights are:

LINK: The Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule