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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined various issues involving consumers' dealings with funeral-related or death care industries, which include businesses that provide funeral and cemetery goods or services, focusing on: (1) the availability of information on the nature and extent of consumer complaints about death care industries; (2) the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) efforts to ensure compliance with its Funeral Rule; and (3) selected state governments' roles in protecting consumers in their death care transactions.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Federal Trade Commission 1. To help assess the overall effectiveness of FTC's Funeral Rule enforcement strategy, the Chairman of FTC should: (1) review possible approaches to determine the most cost-effective means for FTC to conduct sweeps that would result in both a more convincing sample of funeral providers and a broader analysis of the various requirements of the Funeral Rule; and (2) develop and implement a plan for carrying out such an approach in a systematic manner.
Closed - Implemented
In its letter to the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, pursuant to 31 U.S.C. 720, FTC stated that, with regard to this recommendation, it was assessing its approach toward creating a statistically valid representative sample of funeral providers. As of August 2003, FTC staff stated that they constantly evaluate the methods by which the funeral rule may be enforced through, among other things, funeral home sweeps. FTC staff reported that FTC makes decisions about its approach yearly as part of their strategic plan.
Federal Trade Commission 2. To ensure that FTC can consistently: (1) determine whether violations of the Rule's requirements occurred; and (2) document the specific reasons FTC did or did not act on such violations, the Chairman of FTC should train FTC staff on the specific standards needed for a consistent and acceptable level of documentation.
Closed - Implemented
FTC revised its Funeral Rule Offenders Program (FROP) handbook to include specific procedures for capturing, in detail: (1) the specific violation found during test shopping that is done as part of a funeral home sweep; and (2) a written explanation of factors considered when making decisions about actions taken on funeral homes subject to test-shopping. FTC's revised procedures also call for a new two-tiered review of the file on each funeral provider shopped--an initial review by the coordinator of each individual sweep and a final review by the program coordinator. According to FTC's Funeral Rule Coordinator, FTC has also trained regional staff responsible for conducting sweeps about the new procedures via a series of conference calls.

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