Resources and Contacts if You Have Funeral Complaints
There are times when the unthinkable can occur…when your family, already strained due to death and the stress of funeral planning, is treated unfairly by a funeral provider.
Funeral homes, cemeteries, and other companies in the funeral industry are held to certain national standards, but that doesn’t mean that a bad experience can’t happen to you. Whether due to a misunderstanding, neglect, or malicious intentions, there may arise a situation in which you question the ethics and legality of your treatment. If this happens, there are resources and organizations you can turn to for help.
Communication with Your Funeral Home
Before you take any steps, be sure and talk with the funeral home (or other provider) to discuss your fears or situation. Emotions run high following the death of a loved one, and it’s fairly common for a small misunderstanding to carry more meaning that it would under normal circumstances. Good funeral directors know this and will do their best to address your concerns in a way that is respectful and honest. You may want to bring a third-party family member along to provide a more unbiased opinion.
If your attempts at mediation don’t solve the problem, you can also lodge a complaint with one of the major funeral associations. These include:
- The Funeral Consumer’s Alliance is a nonprofit organization that works to protect consumer rights related to the funeral industry. They will provide you with free information on your legal rights as a consumer, as well as offer tips for planning funerals in your area. They also provide an informative overview of how and when to file a complaint—something that is usually regulated at the state level.
- The International Cemetery and Funeral Association is the country’s only international trade association for the funeral industry. Funeral homes and other businesses register with the ICCFA and promise to act in accordance with a high level of ethics and membership regulations. The ICCFA offers a Complaint Resolution Services option through the Cemetery Consumer Service Council, and complaints may be lodged with the national office in conjunction with FTC regulations. ICCFA participating funeral homes are likely to be more open to resolving complaints made this way than those who are not listed.
- The Federal Trade Commission is the largest consumer protection agency in the world. They are the organization responsible for creating and enforcing the Funeral Rule (a list of rights and responsibilities that provide consumers with full disclosure and options in the funeral industry). The FTC will not resolve individual complaints lodged against a funeral home, but you may make a formal complaint that may then be used to investigate the company at a future date.
Ideally, you and the funeral home you choose will be able to settle your differences before it becomes necessary to go to the authorities. In order to ensure that your rights are protected, however, be sure and keep all written forms and contracts that you sign or are given. In addition to being useful to prove wrongdoing, the fine print might also outline the details of your agreement you don’t fully understand.
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By Amy Johnson