FTC Files Amicus Brief in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Saint Joseph Abbey v. Castille

The Federal Trade Commission filed an amicus brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in a case raising constitutional challenges to provisions of the Louisiana Embalming and Funeral Directors Act. The Commission did not take a position on the ultimate issue of the Act’s constitutionality, but stated that the restraints on third-party casket sales in the Act are at odds with the policy goals of both the FTC’s Funeral Rule and the FTC Act.

The Act specifies that only state-licensed funeral directors may engage in the retail sale of caskets in Louisiana, and only at state-licensed funeral establishments. The Act is being challenged by the Benedictine monks of St. Joseph Abbey, who seek to sell hand-made caskets to the general public without threat of prosecution or fines, as the Act provides.

The FTC promulgated the Funeral Rule, which took effect in 1984, after an agency investigation found widespread unfair and deceptive practices in the funeral industry. The Rule protects consumers and promotes competition by requiring funeral providers to disclose full information on the pricing of funeral goods and services, and by prohibiting false claims. As stated in the FTC’s brief, restraints on casket sales by independent retailers, such as the Act’s licensing requirements, “do not further the purposes of the Funeral Rule. On the contrary, they insulate funeral directors from the very competition that the Rule seeks to promote.”

For more information, read Paying Final Respects: Your Rights When Buying Funeral Goods & Services, Funerals: A Consumer Guide and Complying with the Funeral Rule.

The FTC vote approving the amicus brief filing was 4-0. It was filed with the court on December 16, 2011. (FTC File No. P082105; the staff contact is Ruthanne Deutsch, Office of the General Counsel, 202-326-3677.)

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call
1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

(Louisiana Amicus)

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