Undercover agents find funeral home pricing violations

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Larry Glickler talks about a violation he received from the FTC.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

You may be surprised to learn that the Federal Government is sending secret shoppers into funeral homes here in the Miami Valley. The agents are tracking sales practices and in some cases, they are finding violations of the pricing rules designed to protect consumers. It's part of a little-known program that is supposed to help people at their most vulnerable time in life.

"We are sending investigators into funeral homes all over the country. They pretend to be shopping for funeral services," said Dotan Weinman of the Federal Trade Commission.

Federal funeral home 'secret shoppers': By the numbers

1996 Year the program began in an effort to put homes to the test for compliance with the disclosure rules. Undercover federal agents from the FTC show up unannounced at the funeral homes, pretending to be a grieving family that has lost a loved one and interesting in funeral services.
3,000 Funeral homes inspected nationally since 1996.
540 Violations found in those inspections.
2014 Most recent year inspections were conducted in Ohio.
5 of 15 Funeral homes inspected in Ohio that year that failed to make a price list disclosure as required.

The FTC has a very detailed set of regulations that require timely and full disclosure of prices. Failure to comply with this rule can result in a federal citation and a hefty fine. Five local funeral homes were cited in 2014 for violating the rule that says clients must be given the price list before the discussion about products and services.

Larry Glickler of Dayton said it is unfair that he was cited when agents talked to one of his employees.

"I paid a huge fine for that violation and is that fair? Absolutely not. I felt very persecuted," Glickler said.

Larry said Glicker Funeral Home has always had price lists ready but now he makes sure that every person gets one right away.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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What are your rights under the Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule?

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"It's like... here you are, here's your price list. We're very sorry for your loss," said Glicker. "I don't like doing it like that but that's what we're being forced to do."

The Funeral Consumers Alliance wants prices on-line so consumers can compare. Some places already to that and others advise you to get prices over the phone.
Dan Tobias of Tobias Funeral Home said with an in-person visit, you can see what you are buying and get an explanation of the price list.

WATCH: Funeral home owner discusses violation

"If you have it in print and on paper, it makes more sense," Tobias said.

What can you do to protect yourself? The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to check web sites to see ratings and comments of funeral homes.

Since the undercover program began in 1996, the FTC inspected more than 3,000 funeral homes and found 530 with violations. Michigan had the worst compliance rate with 10 out of 15 funeral homes cited. California had the best record with all 10 homes inspected in compliance.

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