BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó







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        |Hearing Date:April 4, 2011         |Bill No:SB                         |
        |                                   |658                                |
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                      SENATE COMMITTEE ON BUSINESS, PROFESSIONS 
                               AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
                          Senator Curren D. Price, Jr., Chair
                                           

                      Bill No:        SB 658Author:Negrete McLeod
                    As Introduced:  February 18, 2011 Fiscal:  Yes

        
        SUBJECT:  Licensed funeral establishments: price list: Internet 
        posting 
        
        SUMMARY:  Requires each funeral establishment that maintains an 
        Internet Website to post on its Website its general price list and 
        casket price list; requires the information to be accessible through a 
        link, conspicuously located on the home page of the Internet Website.

        Existing law:
        
        1)Licenses and regulates funeral establishments, funeral directors, 
          embalmers, crematories, crematory managers, cemeteries, cemetery 
          managers, cemetery brokers, cemetery salespersons, and cremated 
          remains disposers by the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau (Bureau) within 
          the Department of Consumer Affairs.

        2)Requires a funeral establishment to at all times employ a licensed 
          funeral director to manage, direct, or control its business or 
          profession. (Business and Professions Code (BPC) § 7616.2)

        3)Requires every funeral director to provide to any person, upon 
          beginning discussion of prices or of the funeral goods and services 
          offered, a written or printed list (general price list).  The 
          general price list must contain:  (BPC § 7685)

           a)   The price for professional services offered, which may include 
             the funeral director's services, the preparation of the body, the 
             use of facilities, and the use of automotive equipment.  All 
             services included in this price or prices must be enumerated.






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           b)   A statement that the person handling the funeral arrangements 
             is entitled to receive, prior to drafting a contract, a copy of 
             any preneed agreement that has been signed and paid for, in full 
             or in part, by or on behalf of the deceased.

           c)   A statement that gives the price range for all caskets offered 
             for sale.

        4)Requires the funeral director to provide a written statement or list 
          that identifies caskets (casket price list) by price, and 
          description, as specified, when a request for specific information 
          on a casket or caskets is made in person by any individual. (BPC § 
          7685)

           a)   Requires the casket price and description information to be 
             given over the telephone, if requested.

        This bill:

        1) Requires each funeral establishment that maintains an Internet 
           Website to post on its Internet Website its general price list and 
           casket price list, as specified.

        2) Requires the information posted to be accessible through a link, 
           marked "prices for services" conspicuously located on the home page 
           of the Internet Website.

        FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown.  This bill has been keyed "fiscal" by 
        Legislative Counsel.

        COMMENTS:
        
        1. Purpose.  This bill is sponsored by  Center for Public Interest Law  
           (Sponsor) to require that funeral homes, if they already have a 
           Website, to post on this website their price sheet (which they are 
           already required by law to provide to consumers).

        The Author states:
           
             "Shopping for funeral services often occurs immediately 
             following the death of a loved one.  It is already a very 
             difficult time for someone who is grieving their loss, and a 
             funeral is one of the most expensive purchases a consumer will 
             make.  Given that existing law already requires funeral 
             establishments to provide a price list to consumers, it would 
             greatly ease the ability of consumers to find the right funeral 





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             home if this same price list were posted on the funeral 
             establishment's Website."

        2. Background.  Funeral establishments are closely regulated in 
           California.  The Website of the Department of Consumer Affairs 
           Cemetery and Funeral Bureau explains why:

             "The death of a loved one is one of the most traumatic 
             experiences any of us will ever have . . . By asking the right 
             questions, comparing prices and services, and making informed 
             decisions, you can make arrangements that are meaningful to your 
             family and control the costs for yourself and your survivors." 

             "Funerals rank among the most expensive purchases many consumers 
             will ever make.  A traditional funeral, including a casket and 
             vault, costs about $6,000, although 'extras' like flowers, 
             obituary notices, acknowledgment cards or limousines can add 
             thousands of dollars to the bottom line.  Many funerals run well 
             over $10,000."

          Furthermore, these enormous expenses are made during a time of 
          unparalleled emotional stress, even trauma.

          To ensure fairness and accuracy in shopping for an expensive service 
          in emotional circumstances, the general price list required by 
          Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Funeral Rule since 1984 requires a 
          detailed, written price list be given to anyone who asks for the 
          list in person:

             "The request for Ępricing] information does not have to come 
             from a consumer or someone who wants to make funeral 
             arrangements now or in the future.  You must give a Ęgeneral 
             price list] to all persons who inquire about funeral 
             arrangements.  This may include competitors, journalists, and 
             representatives of businesses, religious societies, government 
             agencies, or consumer groups."

           California law largely reflects the FTC Funeral Rule by requiring 
           the funeral establishment to give its general price list to those 
           who inquire about funeral arrangements, as well as requiring the 
           funeral establishment to give a casket price list when an 
           individual asks for casket information in person.  

           Both the FTC Funeral Rule and California law require that prices 
           must also be quoted over the phone.






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        3. Arguments in Support.  In sponsoring the bill, the  Center for 
           Public Interest Law  , argues that the time is long past when 
           in-person visits and telephone contacts are the means by which 
           consumers comparison shop.  This bill seeks to update current law 
           by ensuring that if a funeral establishment elects to have a 
           Website, the price information already required to be provided to 
           consumers by California law when the consumer shows up in person is 
           also posted on the establishment's Website.

        The Sponsor indicates that ensuring that the pricing information 
           funeral establishments already have, are already required to 
           provide over the phone, and are already required to provide to 
           anyone - even their competitors - in person, is posted on their 
           Websites is a convenient and compassionate way to aid grieving 
           consumers in making an informed choice about one of their most 
           expensive purchases during the most difficult time in their lives.

        4. Prior Legislation.   AB 1277  (Cardenas, Chapter 715, Statutes of 
           2001), required a funeral establishment to place a statement on its 
           price list which indicates that survivors of the deceased are 
           entitled to a copy of any preneed funeral arrangement made by the 
           deceased before his or her death.  The bill further required the 
           Bureau to create a form for use by funeral establishments that 
           provides certain specified information to consumers and requires 
           the consumer to affirmatively acknowledge receipt of that 
           information.

        5. Clarifying Amendment.  Since a funeral establishment's general 
           price list and casket price list includes, not only the prices for 
           services but also the prices for goods, Committee staff recommends 
           the following clarifying amendment on page 3, lines 1-3:

             (2) Information posted pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be 
             accessible through a link, marked "prices for  goods and  
             services," conspicuously located on the home page of the 
             Internet Website.
        
        6. Correcting Amendments.  Committee staff recommends a technical 
           amendment to correct a drafting error made by AB 1277 (Cardenas, 
           Chapter 715, Statutes of 2001).  That bill recast Section 7685 into 
           three paragraphs, inserting the requirement for the preneed funeral 
           agreement statement.  In making that amendment, the requirement to 
           list the casket price range was placed in the wrong paragraph.  
           Staff recommends the following amendments:

             On page 2, at the end of line 10, insert:





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             The funeral director shall also provide a statement on that list 
             that gives the price range for all caskets offered for sale.

             On page 2, lines 19 and 20, strike out:  

             The funeral director shall also provide a statement on that list 
             that gives the price range for all caskets offered for sale.

        
        SUPPORT AND OPPOSITION:
        
         Support:   

        Center for Public Interest Law (Sponsor)

         Opposition:   

        None received as of  March 30, 2011.



        Consultant:G. V. Ayers