My letter to the FTC

Bob Davis
Davis Funeral Chapel, Budget Casket
6428 Brentwood Stair
Fort Worth, Texas 76112
817-319-1522

October 11, 2007
Craig Tregillus

Funeral Rule Coordinator

Federal Trade Commission

Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Tregillus,

I would like to file a formal complaint against SCI and other large corporate funeral chains conducting interstate business here in Texas, and other states as well. I feel they are in violation of the Clayton Act in as much as they are using predatory pricing practices to put me and other small funeral homes and casket stores out of business and give themselves total control of the industry.

We all have printed price lists which we must promptly provide to families when they ask about pricing, either in person or over the phone. I submit that this rule is not being followed by any of the corporate funeral chains, either with service or casket prices. In fact, they refuse to discuss pricing until they know the person is deceased. Then, they ask customers to attend an arrangement conference where prices will be discussed. They also say that they will lower their prices to beat any casket store, or another funeral home.

As a tactic designed to put independent service providers out of business, they say they have “flexible pricing.” They are, of course, careful about to whom this is said.

I know of “secret” meetings at various funeral homes in which staff is told how to avoid getting caught doing this. My brother happened to walk in on one of these at Emerald Hills FH. The predatory pricing practices begin after they are “certain of the family” or have custody of the remains.

Word travels very quickly if they think someone is checking on them. When your people checked last time, everyone at SCI knew days before. I feel there is some link between SCI and your office. I’ve seen enough to know that the funeral industry in Texas is corrupt. What SCI does, the other chains follow.

Enclosed are several newspaper stories by Robert Bryce (Funeral Timeline) which document the history of this corruption in Texas. These are only the tip of the iceberg.

Mr. Waltrip clearly feels that he has a free rein and can do whatever he wants. It appears to me that “his people” are running the Texas Funeral Service Commission. My assistant worked for Mr. Waltrip for years. He told her that he intends to close every casket store and small funeral home in America, no matter what it takes.

I own one of the last casket stores remaining in Texas. The FTC Funeral Rule was enacted to protect the consumer from funeral home abuse, but these guys have nothing but disdain for this.

Representing the Funeral Society of Texas, Inc., I attended a meeting in Dallas in April ’06, along with Jim Bates and others from the Funeral Consumers Alliance. I watched as Janette Gosha of the FTC attempted to physically eject Jim Bates and others from the meeting before it started. During the meeting, I asked why the FTC was ignoring the practice of funeral homes of tying the casket to the funeral service as one package, and charging a penalty if the family chose to purchase it elsewhere. These penalties are often as high as $2000, doubling the price of the service. My question was promptly dismissed and Ms. Gosha proceeded to commend the other funeral homes on their “spotless compliance with the rules.”

Craig, as a Funeral Director and owner of a funeral home I know what is said in hallways and back rooms after these meetings. The only concern these people have is how to circumvent the rules and avoid their enforcement.

After reading the Clayton Act, another question exists regarding the legality of charging customers unjustifiably different prices for the same services or merchandise. My understanding is that everyone must be charged the same price, and that predatory pricing may not be used to put a smaller competitor out of business.

For Example:Family “A” is charged the full listed price for a service ($6000) and the listed price for a casket ($4500) for a total of $10,500. On the same day at the same funeral home, Family “B” tells the funeral director that they checked prices at another funeral home or at a casket store at $1800 for a service and $850 for casket. Family B is then charged $1,700 for the same service and $750 for the same casket for which Family A paid $10,500. Family B pays a total of $2,450.

In the above example, the price difference is $8,050 for the exact same services and goods. Family A seems to have been overcharged $8,050. In fairness, is’t Family A due a refund of $8,050? Shouldn’t both families be treated equally? Although presented as an example, the situation I’ve described, including the size of the price discrepancy, is an accurate portrayal of current practice.

Please advise me as to the whether these issues will be properly addressed by the FTC, or would more effectively be dealt with in the context of a Class Action suit on behalf of all affected families in America.

Sincerely,

Bob Davis

Davis Funeral Chapel, Budget Casket Funeral Supply, Funeral Society of Texas, Inc.

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