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PA Senate Approves Pre-Purchased Funeral Merchandise Law

Sheila Sund

  By a 26-20 vote, the State Senate has approved a measure that would amend the Cemetery and Funeral Merchandise Trust Fund Law in what proponents call an attempt to better protect consumers.

“The premise is very simple” said Sen. Lisa Boscola (D – Northampton County), member of the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee. “Consumers should get what they pay for.”

Senate Bill 874 ensures that the funds used to purchase funeral merchandise such as caskets and burial vaults will remain in a trust fund in case consumers decide to cancel their contracts.

“During this difficult time of grief and sadness people should not be wrangling with cemetery businesses and antiquated or faulty materials and caskets,” Boscola said.

Other changes include pre-delivery prohibition of items such as caskets and burial vaults. Exceptions include mausoleums, cremation gardens, markers and lawn crypts prior to the death of the person under contract. The legislation would also require cemetery and funeral merchandise sellers to provide a price list.

“If you are purchasing today something you need for tomorrow you should be entitled to tomorrow’s quality,” Boscola said. “Not something that has been under wear and tear, put off to the side, deteriorating for decades.”

Currently, the law requires funeral service and merchandise sellers who are delivering their goods on a future date to deposit 70 percent of the purchase price into a trust fund account. Some suppliers misinterpreted the law however, and avoided the 70 percent trust fund requirement through “constructive delivery” of certain items prior to the time of need. A constructive delivery is defined as a delivery that does not include the item itself but is recognized by both parties as a transaction.

“The prohibition of pre-delivery, pre-need products protects consumers by ensuring the merchandise they are buying is new at the time that they need it," Boscola said.

Merchandise such as caskets and burial vaults are purchased prior to the time they are needed and reserved for the purchaser while never actually being delivered until time of death. As a result, the seller can claim the merchandise has been delivered and retain 100% of the sale price and avoid compliance with the trust fund law.

The legislation now moves to the state House.