WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today alerted District residents about new consumer protections that increase transparency in the funeral industry during the COVID-19 emergency. The District’s new “Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Home Establishments” requires funeral homes to post their prices online for the first time. It also requires funeral businesses to notify consumers of their rights—including the right to choose individual goods and services rather than purchasing a preselected set of goods and services. Consumers also have the right to purchase less expensive caskets from sources other than funeral homes. The Council of the District of Columbia authorized the creation of the Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Home Establishments on a temporary basis as part of its April 10 emergency legislation. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) proposed many of the new protections following a 2017 investigation into the funeral industry that revealed a lack of price transparency and alleged violations of consumer protection law. OAG will enforce this Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Home Establishments while it is in effect during the emergency.
“Washingtonians are confronting an extraordinary number of deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. I thank the Council for unanimously approving, and the Mayor for signing into law, strong protections for consumers of funeral services in the District of Columbia,” said AG Racine. “Consumers will now have the benefit of greater transparency and a Bill of Rights to assist them when they interact with funeral homes and like businesses. District residents who believe they are being treated unfairly by a funeral home should contact the Office of the Attorney General for help.”
The COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 (Emergency Act), passed on April 10, authorized the creation of a Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Home Establishments. OAG worked closely with the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and Board of Funeral Directors to develop these new emergency protections.
The Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Home Establishments incorporates key provisions of legislation OAG originally proposed in 2017 following an investigation of the District’s funeral industry that revealed some funeral homes were allegedly refusing to provide pricing information, padding prices for services provided by third-party vendors, and telling consumers that they could not cancel funeral arrangements made in advance, in violation of consumer protection law. As part of a separate 2017 price survey, OAG documented dramatic differences between the prices funeral homes charged, including “basic service fees ranging from $965 to $9,200.”
Under the Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Establishments, funeral homes must:
- Post prices online: For the first time, funeral homes must post their prices on any websites they maintain, including their general price list, price list for caskets, and price list for outer burial containers. Previously, few funeral businesses have provided prices online and consumers often needed to visit a funeral home in person to receive specific pricing information.
- Provide consumers with receipts from any third-party vendors: Funeral homes are newly required to supply consumers with receipts for any amounts they paid to third parties, like florists or clergy. Under District law, funeral homes may not charge consumers more than the amount they paid for third party services unless they disclose that they are imposing a surcharge, and now they must provide receipts to document compliance.
- Notify consumers of their rights when planning a funeral: The Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Home Establishments outlines in detail consumer rights when planning a funeral, including the right to choose which individual goods and services to purchase. For example, consumers have the right to purchase a casket wherever they choose (including online, where it may be cheaper) and to bring caskets into a funeral home without paying a fee. Funeral homes are required to provide copies of the Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Home Establishments during initial meetings with consumers and must post it on their website.
The full Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Home Establishments is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-05/Consumer-Bill-of-Rights-for-Funeral-Home-Establishments.pdf
Submit Consumer Complaints to OAG
If you believe a funeral home is violating the Consumer Bill of Rights for Funeral Home Establishments, or if you would like to report any other problem you are having with a business, please contact OAG’s Office of Consumer Protection by:
OAG’s COVID-19 Resources
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, OAG is teleworking until at least May 15. You can access OAG services online and over the phone during our telework period at:
- Website: oag.dc.gov
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and OAGCommunity@dc.gov
- Phone: (202) 727-3400
- Fax: (202) 347-8922
- TTY: (202) 727-3400
Consumer Alert: Protect yourself from scams, price gouging, discrimination, and get information about your rights during the pandemic by reading OAG’s Consumer Alert (available in Amharic, Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese).
For more District Government COVID-19 updates visit: coronavirus.dc.gov