New York State Department of Health Issues A Reminder About Pricing Regulations for Funeral Firms

The Department Shared Reminder Having Discovered Over-Charging for Specific Services by Some Funeral Firms

Consumer Protection is a Critical Component of the Department's Regulatory Role

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 27, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health this week is reminding funeral directors and consumers about State laws regulating the fee structure for services performed by funeral firms. Under State regulations, funeral firms are allowed to set their own charges for the transfer of remains from the place of death to the funeral establishment, however, the regulation does not allow the funeral firm to institute a sliding scale of costs based on the number of firm employees or personnel involved or the time or place of death.

"Protecting New Yorkers when they are coping with the death of a loved one and at their most vulnerable is a priority for the Department," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Our State laws were created to prevent deceptive practices and avoid confusion when consumers may be susceptible to exploitation. We remain vigilant in enforcing our regulatory responsibilities to ensure New Yorkers are aware of the true prices for the funeral products and services they are purchasing."

The Department reviews the General Price List (GPL) –which every funeral firm is required to have and provide to customers - during every change of manager, change of address or other change to a funeral home, or upon investigation of a consumer complaint. Over time, the Department has become aware that some funeral firms have begun over-charging families for the transfer of remains by adding an extra personnel fee for the transfer of the decedent from the place of death, or by adding additional charges based on the type of facility where the death occurred, or for the time of day that the transfer takes place. Most commonly, firms have begun adding separate charges stated on their GPL as "second attendant" or "extra staff", and/or a variable charge for either home deaths, hospice deaths, or nursing home deaths, and "after hour" charges. These added charges violate Department regulations covering fees for funeral services in New York.

These state regulations further define how funeral firms may identify and assess fees:

  • 10 NYCRR § 78.2 requires a specific disclosure on the Itemization of Funeral Services and Merchandise Selected: the cost of the "Transfer of Remains" is inclusive of "personnel, equipment and vehicle." Funeral firms which charge for an additional attendant or specify a separate charge for transfers from a residential, hospice, or nursing home setting are in violation of this requirement.
  • 10 NYCRR § 79.4 identifies four separate price "packages" that are permissible on the GPL. The "packages" must offer a single price, with the listed cost for the transfer of remains included, to arrive at the final price for that service. A single price on the GPL must be listed for direct cremations, direct burials, forwarding remains, and receiving remains, all of which must have the cost of transfer included in the final price. Having a floating cost for the transfer of remains by charging differently based on numbers of personnel, the type of facility where the death occurred, or the time of the death is not permitted.
  • 10 NYCRR § 79.4(e)(7) states that the GPL must have a separate charge for livery services. It is additionally supported by 10 NYCRR § 79.4(g), which allows a flat fee for any livery services to be only modified by a mileage charge stated for a specific geographical zone or as a per mile charge for "the transfer of remains or other transportation by livery."

Funeral firms with concerns about their pricing structure for the transfer of remains are reminded that the occasional or unexpected expenses incurred in such transfers are recoverable in the basic arrangements charge as identified in 10 NYCRR § 79.4(e)(4). This regulation specifically states that this GPL charge "shall include the services of the funeral director, other staff, equipment and facilities to respond to the initial request for service."

The Department's reminder letter for funeral firms can be viewed here.

For information about planning a funeral visit the Department's Guide to Arranging a Funeral website. New Yorkers with complaints about a funeral firm or director should fill out this complaint form.

The Department also has information on pre-planning and pre-paying for a funeral, which is available here. Complaints of alleged fraud in pre-need or misappropriation of prepaid monies should contact the NYS Attorney General.