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9th Circuit

The business of funerals is never pleasant, but a new lawsuit claims the business practices of the industry's leading companies are downright dirty.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance filed a class action suit in San Francisco federal court May 2 against the three largest U.S. funeral home companies and the largest casket maker. The complaint alleges anticompetitive behavior, including price fixing and sham discounting, as well as a conspiracy among the defendants.

In 1994 the FTC banned handling fees, but Schnell says the defendants found another way to exclude independent sellers--such as Costco and Internet retailers--from the casket market, leaving them free to jack up prices once again.

Batesville, which manufacturers about 50 percent of caskets sold in the U.S. each year, established a company policy that their caskets only can be sold by licensed funeral home directors, thus excluding independent casket discounters (ICDs). The company claims funeral home directors alone have the ability and training to properly sell the caskets.

staff Writer

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