Required by law, a GPL is a document containing specific disclosures and prices for specific items that a funeral provider must give under the following conditions defined by the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule:
- A provider must give a GPL to anyone who asks, in person, about funeral goods, funeral services, or the prices of such goods or services.
- A provider must give the GPL to such individuals to keep.
- The request for information does not have to come from a consumer or someone who wants to make funeral arrangements now or in the future.
- A provider must give a GPL to all persons who inquire about funeral arrangements. This may include competitors, journalists, and representatives of businesses, religious societies, government agencies, or consumer groups.
- A provider cannot charge a fee for the price list or place any conditions upon giving consumers information that the Rule requires be given to them. A provider must give all required information to anyone who asks, free of charge.
- A provider cannot simply offer to allow a consumer to see the GPL. A verbal offer of a GPL is not enough to comply with the Rule. A provider cannot merely tell consumers that a GPL is available for inspection. A provider cannot show a GPL in a booklet or binder where it appears that there is only one copy available or that the booklet is solely for the funeral director’s use.
- A provider should do nothing to discourage customers from looking at the GPL, such as telling them that it is unnecessary or difficult to understand.
The Funeral Rule requires providers to give consumers accurate, itemized price information and various other disclosures about funeral goods and services. In addition, the Rule prohibits:
- Misrepresenting legal, crematory, and cemetery requirements
- Embalming for a fee without permission
- Requiring the purchase of a casket for direct cremation
- Requiring consumers to buy certain funeral goods or services as a condition for furnishing other funeral goods or services
- Engaging in other deceptive or unfair practices
What Information is Required on a GPL?
As a minimum, a General Price List should be printed or typewritten, and must have all the following information on it:
- Name, address, and telephone number of the funeral provider’s place of business, including (where relevant) the address and telephone number for each branch.
- Caption “General Price List”
- Effective date of the price list.
- Six specific disclosures:
Disclosure 1 informs consumers that they have a right to select only the items they want to buy, besides a non-declinable basic services fee. This statement should be placed immediately above the prices of the goods and services offered. The statement should read as follows:
The goods and services shown below are those we can provide to our customers. You may choose only the items you desire. However, any funeral arrangements you select will include a charge for our basic services and overhead. If legal or other requirements mean you must buy any items you did not specifically ask for, we will explain the reason in writing on the statement we provide describing the funeral goods and services you selected.
The sentence in bold-type must be included if customers cannot decline the basic services fee. A provider may add the phrase “and overhead” after the word “services,” as shown above, if the fee includes the recovery of overhead costs.
Disclosure 2 must tell consumers that the law usually does not require embalming. The statement should read as follows:
[Except in certain special cases,] embalming is not required by law. Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing. If you do not want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay for it, such as direct cremation or immediate burial.
The phrase, “Except in certain special cases” must be deleted from the embalming disclosure if state or local law does not require embalming for a viewing and funeral (Maine does not require this). This statement must appear directly with the price for embalming. Information about any state law requirements can be placed after the FTC disclosure statement regarding embalming.
Disclosure 3 informs consumers that they may use alternative containers (defined in the revised Rule) for direct cremations. This disclosure must read as follows:
If you want to arrange a direct cremation, you can use an alternative container. Alternative containers encase the body and can be made of materials like fiberboard or composition materials (with or without an outside covering). The containers we provide are (specify containers).
This statement must be placed directly next to the price range for direct cremation. At the end of the last sentence, a provider should describe the specific kind of container(s) they offer. If a provider does not arrange direct cremations, this disclosure is not needed on the GPL.
Disclosure 4 tells consumers about any “basic services fee” that will be added to the total cost of the funeral arrangements. The fee may be included in the GPL one of two ways:
Option 1: If there is a separate basic services fee and the charge is non-declinable (the consumer does not have the option of declining the charge), this disclosure must be provided:
This fee for basic services and overhead will be added to the total cost of the funeral arrangements you select. (This fee is already included in charges for direct cremations, immediate burials, and forwarding or receiving remains.)
The disclosure must appear with the price for the basic services and with a description of the services included for that price. The disclosure cannot be on a separate page or anywhere else on the GPL apart from the basic services price.
If this basic services fee is non-declinable, the price also must include all charges for the recovery of overhead not allocated elsewhere. In this situation, the first sentence of the disclosure can include the phrase “and overhead” after the word “services.”
Option 2: Instead of charging a separate basic services fee, a provider can include the services fee in their casket prices. With this alternative, they must include the following disclosure:
Please note that a fee of (specify dollar amount) for the use of our basic services and overhead is included in the price of our caskets. This same fee shall be added to the total cost of your funeral arrangements if you provide the casket. Our services include (specify).
Like option 1, option 2 should include all charges for the recovery of overhead costs not allocated elsewhere, and the phrase “and overhead” after the word “services” may be added. Again, the disclosure must appear on the GPL with the prices for individual caskets or together with a casket price range.
Disclosure 5 tells consumers that a Casket Price List is available. Casket prices may either be listed on the GPL or on a separate “Casket Price List.” If on a separate Casket Price List, the GPL should state the range of prices for caskets, together with the following disclosure: A complete price list will be provided at the funeral home.
Disclosure 6 informs consumers that an Outer Burial Container Price List is available. Container prices may be listed on the GPL, or on a separate “Outer Burial Container Price List.” If on a separate price list, the GPL should state the range of prices for the outer burial containers, together with the following disclosure: A complete price list will be provided at the funeral home.
If prices for outer burial containers are on a GPL, it must include the following disclosure directly next to the outer burial container prices.
In most areas of the country, state or local law does not require that you buy a container to surround the casket in the grave. However, many cemeteries require that you have such a container so that the grave will not sink in. Either a grave liner or a burial vault will satisfy these requirements.
Finally, the FTC requires certain itemized prices on a GPL so consumers may choose only those items they wish to have. These 16 items, with prices, must be listed on a GPL:
• Forwarding of remains to another funeral home
• Receiving remains from another funeral home
• Direct cremation
• Immediate burial
• Basic services of funeral director and staff, and overhead
• Transfer of remains to funeral home
• Other preparation of the body
• Use of facilities and staff for viewing
• Use of facilities and staff for funeral ceremony
• Use of facilities and staff for memorial service
• Use of equipment and staff for graveside service
• Either individual casket prices or the range of casket prices that appear on the Casket Price List
• Either individual outer burial container prices or the range of outer burial container prices that appear on the Outer Burial Container Price List.
The items may be listed in any order. A provider is only required to list the items they offer. In addition to the 16 required items, a GPL may contain any other items, including packaged services. Any package offerings must be listed after and not in place of the required 16 items.
The itemized prices on a GPL, as well as on a Casket Price List and Outer Burial Container Price List, should be accurate and up-to-date. The prices should reflect exactly what a consumer will be charged.
If you think any of this sounds the slightest bit confusing, try reading more than one or two general prices lists. As you might imagine, they can be a little bit overwhelming. Add to that the grief of a recent loss.
The rules for GPLs apply even if one is shopping and pre-paying in advance (a practice not recommended by the Funeral Consumers Alliance or FCA Maine).
We look forward to bringing more detailed results of the 2016 survey, including an assessment of the GPLs we looked at this year in terms of their overall compliance with the FTC Funeral Rule.
For more information on complying with the Funeral Rule, visit the Federal Trade Commission site on this subject.