Wed, Nov 05, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Warning given on funeral contracts

TRICKY BUSINESS Some funeral service providers take people's advance payments but then fail to put them into a funeral trust fund, a consumer watchdog said

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Consumers' Foundation warned against so-called "pre-need" funeral contracts that require advance payments without putting the entrusted money into appropriate funeral trust funds.

"The Funeral Services Law, enacted in July, requires that 75 percent of the advance payments made on pre-need funeral arrangements must be put into trust accounts," said Cheng Ying-hung (鄭英宏), Ministry of the Interior's Civil Affairs section chief.

However, the Consumers' Foundation reported that since the enactment of the law, several funeral providers have begun using new methods to avoid the requirement.

"For instance, many providers claim that they are selling products or services such as retirement housing, legal support, retirement packages, crematorium space and even a lifetime supply of rice. The providers maintain that the pre-need funeral arrangements are just a bonus gift given to reward the consumers' purchase of other services," said Consumers' Foundation secretary-general Chen Jen-hung (程仁宏).

Cheng explained that because the Funeral Services Law only requires funeral service providers who accept advance payments to put 75 percent of the entrusted amount into trust funds, it is difficult to legally penalize businesses that deny they are taking funeral arrangement payments.

The Consumers' Foundation reported that since the enactment of the law, it had found 113 cases of "unsafe" pre-need funeral contracts that have led to a loss of between NT$100,000 to NT$1 million.

Chen further urged the government to release a list of legal pre-need funeral arrangement providers that could be trusted.

The foundation advised consumers to check with banks to make sure that a trust account has been established by the funeral provider. Chen also said that consumers should make sure there are no additional charges hidden in the fine print of the funeral contract and to get a receipt.

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