Consumer advocates want more competition in casket market

Caskets at a funeral.


Bill Radke: Until the 1980s, a funeral home was the only place you could buy a casket. The Federal Trade Commission has since tried to allow more competition, but consumer advocates say the agency hasn't done enough. They've sued the three biggest casket companies. Reporter April Dembosky says the case goes before a federal judge in Houston this week.

April Dembosky: To get around current FTC rules, the top three casket companies in the country wrote new internal distribution policies. They said they would sell caskets to anyone, but they would only deliver them to funeral homes. Consumer attorney Gordon Schnell says that allowed these companies to dominate 70 percent of the casket market.

Gordon Schnell: The defendants along with other funeral homes have entered into a conspiracy to restrict competition from discount casket sellers so they can keep their casket pricing artificially high.

Attorneys for the casket companies refused to comment on the record. But Mark Allen from the Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America insists theres plenty of competition in his industry.

Mark Allen: I'm contacted every week by a new upstart company thats trying to get some advice for getting started in this industry.

And thats getting harder these days as more people choose cremation. No burial, no need for a fancy casket.

I'm April Dembosky for Marketplace.


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