FTC Action Leads to Civil Penalties, Strict Requirements for Funeral and Cremation Provider That Withheld Remains from Loved Ones to Extract Payment

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Anthony Joseph Damiano and his funeral service companies—Funeral & Cremation Group of North America, LLC, and Legacy Cremation Services, LLC (doing business as Heritage Cremation Provider, Evergreen Funeral Home and Crematory, and Carolina Central Crematory)—will pay civil penalties and abide by strict requirements on how they communicate with customers to resolve a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The DOJ and FTC filed their complaint against Damiano and his companies in April 2022, alleging that they misrepresented their location, leading consumers to believe they were a local provider, advertised deceptively low prices, illegally threatened and failed to return cremated remains to bereaved consumers, and failed to provide disclosures required by the Funeral Rule.

“Lying to consumers about critical information including price and location of services when they are dealing with the loss of a loved one is outrageous and illegal,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Our actions in this case show the FTC’s commitment to enforcing the Funeral Rule to protect consumers and honest funeral homes.”

The complaint alleged that the defendants claimed to be local funeral or cremation providers when speaking with customers, failing to disclose that the services would be contracted to a third party, sometimes hours away from loved ones. The complaint also alleged that when consumers were presented with undisclosed fees and higher prices, the defendants in some cases withheld the remains of their loved ones to extract payment.

The proposed court order, which was agreed to by the defendants in the case, would require the defendants to:

  • Share important info on their website: The order requires the defendants to disclose key facts on their website, including their actual physical location and a general price list, as well as a notice when funeral goods or services will be provided by a third-party company not owned by the defendants.
  • Disclose their price list upfront: The defendants are required to provide consumers with a general price list either during or immediately after their first interaction with a consumer about funeral goods or services, whether online or by telephone, and before any discussion of price occurs.
  • Provide info on third parties: The order requires the defendants to give consumers the name, address, and contact information for any third-party provider that will provide funeral goods or services.
  • Pay a civil penalty: The order requires the defendants to pay $275,000 in civil penalties.

The staff attorneys on this matter are Thomas Harris and Rebecca Plett.

The Department of Justice filed the order and civil penalty judgment on behalf of the Commission in the U.S. District Court for the District of Florida. NOTE: Consent judgments have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

Official news published at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2023/04/ftc-action-leads-civil-penalties-strict-requirements-funeral-cremation-provider-withheld-remains

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