NJ Funeral Regulators Score ‘D’ for Consumer Education, Report Says
The loss of a loved one is one of the most emotional moments in a person’s life. As if grieving weren’t hard enough, families must contend with funeral planning, which can cost thousands of dollars and many families are unprepared for.
But New Jersey is not doing a good job of educating consumers about their legal funeral rights, according to a new report from the Funeral Consumer Alliance (FCA) and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).
The report looked at how well state regulators inform consumers of their legal rights when making arrangements, and whether they suggest smart buying strategies, how to file complaints, and how to investigate. funeral homes that have been disciplined.
New Jersey’s ranking places it in the majority, with 25 other state agencies also getting a “D” in the report.
Seven states received an “A” rating, five states received a “B” rating, five states received an “C” and seven received an “F”. Washington DC was included in the tally, but Hawaii was not because there is no state regulator overseeing funeral homes.
The New Jersey Consumer Division, which oversees the New Jersey Board of Mortuary Sciences, did not immediately respond to requests for comment or details on the number of complaints the board received. The governor’s office also did not immediately respond.
According to the report, the council’s website, which regulates the funeral industry, is not very user-friendly and instead appears to be designed with industry officials in mind, rather than individual consumers.
The report says consumers face costs ranging from $ 2,000 to well over $ 20,000 when planning a funeral, but most consumers are unaware of their rights. He cited a recent FCA / CFA survey which found that only 25% of people knew funeral homes were required to provide quotes over the phone and in a detailed price list.
The report ranked consumer information on each state’s funeral regulatory agency website on a scale of “A” (excellent) to “F” (poor).
To receive an “A”, each site had to have:
· An important link to consumer-oriented information that is intuitively labeled, “not tucked away under a menu of choices unrelated to consumer information”.
· An explanation of a consumer’s basic rights under the Federal Trade Commission “Funeral Rule”. “This rule, often reflected by the state’s own requirements, gives consumers the right to choose pay-per-view services, receive quotes over the phone and receive a detailed printed price list at a funeral home,” says The report.
· An explanation of a consumer’s rights when purchasing a prepaid funeral, including the amount that would be refunded if a contract is canceled. The board website does not offer this, but a consumer brief can be found elsewhere on the Consumer Affairs website.
· Other information, including links to the FTC website or publications on “Shopping for Funeral Services”. The New Jersey board of directors site has a “useful links” section, but it only includes a link to a state program to collect unused and expired drugs, not the Federal Trade Commission or other information on drugs. consumers regarding funerals.
· A clearly visible link to file a complaint. The New Jersey site doesn’t have this, but it does provide an email address, phone number, and address where “inquiries” can be mailed. (You can file a complaint here.)
· The ability to see if a funeral home has been disciplined by the regulatory body. The New Jersey site allows consumers to search which entities have been disciplined and it offers a link to see if anyone is terminated.
“Websites that received a D contained little information about consumers, and what was offered was not visibly labeled, or they did not offer any specific information to consumers,” the report said.
For more information about your rights in funeral planning, see “5 Tips for Planning Funeral Expenses” by the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and the Consumer Federation of America, and “Shopping for Funeral Services” by the. Federal Trade Commission. ”
Additionally, for information specific to New Jersey, see FCA of Princeton and FCA of Northern New Jersey.
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Karin Price Mueller can be contacted at KPriceMueller@NJAdvanceMedia.com.