On behalf of the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice is suing Funeral & Cremation Group of North America, LLC, Legacy Cremation Services, LLC, d/b/a Heritage Cremation Provider, and their owner, Anthony Joseph Damiano, for misrepresenting their location and prices, illegally threatening and failing to return cremated remains to consumers, and failing to provide disclosures required by the Funeral Rule. The FTC is asking the court to stop violations of the FTC Act and the Funeral Rule and impose civil penalties on the defendants.
“Preying on consumers when they are dealing with the loss of a loved one is outrageous, and it’s illegal,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC is committed to enforcing the Funeral Rule to protect both grieving consumers and honest funeral homes.”
According to the complaint filed on the FTC’s behalf by the Department of Justice, Legacy Cremation Services, LLC, Funeral & Cremation Group of North America, LLC, and their Florida-based owner Anthony Damiano misrepresented their location and prices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act and the Funeral Rule.
The complaint alleges that:
- Defendants falsely claim to be local providers. Defendants claim to operate local crematories or provide local cremation services on their websites and during phone calls with consumers. Defendants frequently fail to disclose that they attempt to arrange for services by third-party funeral providers unaffiliated with defendants. In some instances, the defendants are unable to locate a funeral provider in the location sought by the consumer, and instead secure services in other locations (at times up to two hours away) without first consulting with the consumer, according to the complaint, and in those instances, consumers are forced to travel for viewings or to pick up their loved one’s remains, or have the remains shipped to them.
- Defendants serially charge more than their posted prices. Defendants routinely posted prices lower than consumers ultimately paid. The defendants also violated the Funeral Rule by failing to provide consumers with a statement including the total costs of the goods and services and failing to disclose that the prices they charge for cash advance items are higher than defendants’ costs for those items.
- Defendants hold hostage the remains of loved ones until consumers pay the higher prices. Damiano and his companies, in some instances, unfairly withheld or threatened to withhold cremated remains or information about the location of cremated remains from consumers who refused to pay previously undisclosed fees and higher prices.
The Funeral Rule gives consumers important rights when making funeral arrangements. The Rule, issued in 1984, requires funeral homes to provide consumers with itemized price lists at the start of any in-person discussions of funeral arrangements, caskets, and/or outer burial containers. It also requires funeral homes to provide price information by telephone on request, and it prohibits funeral homes from requiring consumers to buy any item, such as a casket, as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service. The Funeral Rule carries a potential civil penalty of up to $46,517 for each violation.
The Commission vote to refer the civil penalty complaint to the Department of Justice for filing was 4-0. The Department of Justice filed the complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.