Funeral home pays huge sum to settle California lawsuit

The nation's largest funeral service provider will pay $23 million in civil penalties as part of a settlement agreement in an Alameda County lawsuit that alleged the company sold cremation packages that violated consumer protection laws, prosecutors said Wednesday .

The lawsuit alleged that Service Corporation International, which does business in California as Neptune Society and Trident Society and has locations in Oakland, Walnut Creek and other parts of the Bay Area, failed to provide full refunds when customers received claims from them before their claim had canceled cremation services purchased after death.

Service Corporation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In addition to the penalties, the settlement will require Service Corporation International to pay a full refund to customers who canceled the cremation packages in question, officials said.

“Whether in higher education, home insurance or the funeral industry, deceptive business practices will not be tolerated,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.

He joined with Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins and Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli to file the lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court.

According to the lawyers, the Neptune Society and the Trident Society offered their clients a “standard plan” for cremation services. The plan included two contracts: one for premium-priced goods and one for discounted cremation services.

According to prosecutors, the packages were cheaper than other cremation services to attract customers. However, when customers requested a refund, the Service Corporation refunded only the portion designated for cremation services, even though state law requires a full refund for pre-required cremation packages at any time prior to providing the services.

According to the lawyers, Service Corporation also routinely informed its customers that they had 30 days to cancel their plans and receive a full refund.

The settlement requires Service Corporation to change its practices to comply with the law.

Price said the settlement holds Service Corporation responsible for what she described as a practice of fraudulent price manipulation to defraud customers and evade legal obligations that require them to prepay all monies paid for cremation services. deposited in trust.

Jenkins and Frugoli said the settlement also sends a message to the cremation services industry.

“The on-demand cremation industry has always been vulnerable to abuse, which is why California law provides comprehensive protection for consumers, many of whom are elderly,” Jenkins said. “Consumer protection laws must be strictly adhered to. If this is not the case, we will not hesitate to take action.”

Reach David Hernandez: [email protected]

Anna Harden

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