Consumer Group Opposes Merger

Protecting a consumer's right to choose meaningful, dignified, and affordable funerals since 1963


                                                                                                                                                                      July 11, 2013                                                                               

Consumer Group Opposes Merger of Funeral Chain Giants

South Burlington, VT.—Funeral Consumers Alliance, the only national nonprofit protecting the rights of funeral consumers, urges the Federal Trade Commission to deny the merger of funeral giants Service Corporation International (SCI) and Stewart Enterprises (STEI). If they combine, SCI will amass more than 2,000 funeral homes and cemeteries from coast to coast, and will be vastly larger than any other funeral home and cemetery chain.

Unlike many other retail chains, bigger isn’t better when it comes to funerals. Unlike Wal-Mart or Costco, SCI’s savings from economies of scale don’t get passed on to the customer family. They go to the company’s true customer, the shareholder.

“It’s alarming to think that a company with a long track record of abusing consumers at the worst times of their lives might get even bigger,” said Josh Slocum, FCA’s executive director. “For at least 15 years grieving families around the country have complained to us about the practices at SCI funeral homes and cemeteries.  From lying about options in order to boost the funeral bill, to digging up graves to re-sell them to another unsuspecting family, to denying the legal rights of LGBT people to make funeral arrangements for their partners. You name it, we’ve heard it.”

“SCI has devoured the other funeral home chains over the past several years and now is the king of the hill in most major metropolitan markets. And the results have not been good for consumers. These mergers have led to higher prices and deteriorating service,” said Mr. Slocum.

Most people don’t even know they’re doing business with a multinational Wall Street chain when they call their local funeral home. “Smith and Sons Funeral Home” may not have anything to do with the Smith family at all. Only SCI’s consumer-friendly brand-name, Dignity Memorial, gives a clue to the ownership. Price surveys by Funeral Consumers Alliance groups have long documented how Dignity-owned businesses are among the most expensive in any region you look.

“Dignity Memorial” is no stranger to scandal:

  • SCI’s Menorah Gardens Cemetery, a prominent Jewish burial ground in Florida, was hit by a class action suit for grave desecration. The case was settled for $100 million.