- Funding for the new BC regulatory authority was introduced late in the year.
- Great News! Financial Post reports that SCI has Buried Hard Sell Approach. Mr. Crean responds to the editor.
- In April the Florida Courts dropped the criminal charges against SCI because a criminal conviction might result in the insurance company not paying the victims of their malpractice.
- A new consumer regulatory organization, the Business Practice and Consumer Protection Authority (BPCPA) was introduced.
- In June the Order of the Golden Rule Association, and the Independent Funeral Directors Associations of Florida, Indiana, Georgia, Michigan, Maryland, Maine, New York, and Virginia all announced their joining the FFA’s US Trademark Opposition against SCI’s attempt to register “Family Funeral Care” in the United States, establishing the ‘Prevent SCI’s Trademark Fund’ or ‘PST Fund’, and organizing fund-raising support to help with extensive legal costs. In June SCI declined to defend its USA Trademark Registration against FFA’s Opposition. In July SCI threatened to sue PICA over faulty research.
- PICA responded that it welcomed the opportunity to defend its research in any venue SCI chose (because the publicity would bring much needed attention to the issues) but thought a live television debate on inadequate funeral regulation would be far more useful to the public (no response so far).
- The FFA gained the support of about 3,500 family owned funeral homes at their Canadian Trademark Commission Hearing on whether SCI should be awarded the trademark “Family Funeral Care”. On April 23, the Canadian Trademark Office found in favor of the FFA opposition, and denied SCI their trademark registration.
- In May the FFA is approached by a number of the healthcare, religious, caregiver groups and asked to start a new public education vehicle (a group that did not include the word funeral in its name). After several focus groups were organized and research done, the PARTNERS IN CARE ALLIANCE (PICA) was announced and within a year completed 200 presentations to nursing homes, hospitals, consumer groups, seniors groups and churches.
- March 6, the province of B.C. adopted the three primary recommendations of the FFA from 1997 making them law.
- In May 2001 Consumer Reports Magazine reported that Family-owned local Independent funeral homes… “on average offered funerals for $2,000 less than the big national chains.” In the Vancouver market where the average service is roughly $2,000, that would make SCI 100% more expensive, but Vancouver is an unusual market. It is 80% consolidated or “conglomerate-owned”.
- The FFA attended the bankruptcy hearings of the Loewen Group explaining to the creditors that the company was worth considerably more broken up and sold back to individual operators. These recommendations were ignored in the Wilmington procedures.
- In December 1991 allegations were filed against SCI for exhuming clients and discarding the remains of clients in a neighbouring swamp, and reselling graves. Criminal charges were filed
- In September the FFA was invited to participate in the Public Policy Forum review of the Canadian Competition Act. Nine recommendations were made under the aims of Bill C-402 sponsored by MP Dan McTeague, dealing with the “abuse of dominance” in the retail sector. The Bill was in response to consumer concerns about markets dominated by a few big players. The FFA urged the federal government not to allow history to keep repeating itself on these issues, declaring it was vital to give equal weight to the views of all Canadians.
- The Partners In Care Alliance was formed, consisting of roughly 300 members. Although the FFA was the legal agent of record in these oppositions, PICA’s support of the FFA truly allowed changes to be achieved in the following regulatory districts:
- The FFA was asked by the Consumer Affairs Commission of the City of New York to provide evidence in support of their regulatory recommendations. The FFA and their supporter group’s recommendations were accepted and mandatory disclosure of national funeral chain ownership became law in New York.
- The FFA filed a complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission against Service Corporation International advertising itself in certain regions as “Affiliated Family Funeral Homes”.
- In October the FFA addressed the Canadian Bar Association – Wills and Estates Division and expressed their concerns about the current lack of national regulations in funeral service. Chief among the concerns of the Canadian Bar Association Wills and Estates Division was “Tied-selling” between funeral homes and cemeteries, actually a violation of the Criminal Code of Canada.
- In November the FFA Chair addressed the Federal Trade Commission and raised the same concerns about the concentration of ownership and tied selling between funeral homes and cemeteries where they were allowed to be located together.
- As part of FFA’s trademark opposition against SCI, 15,000 requests for evidence were mailed to family owned funeral homes asking for evidence and examples of where the national funeral consolidators were using confusing marketing information to appear like locally owned family businesses. The evidence received filled five affidavits, which laying down stood seven inches thick.
- The FFA was asked formally to submit a request for regulatory reform to the Province of British Columbia. Chief among the FFA and the caregiver group’s requests were:
1) Mandatory disclosure of national funeral chain ownership of local funeral homes – now law
2) Mandatory disclosure or real address where funeral service providers operate from – now law
3) A ban on the solicitation of plot owners by funeral homes located in cemeteries – now law
- On May 16, the City of Vancouver declined the Loewen Group proposal and accepted their proposal.
- In September licensing of personnel and facilities was finally brought into law, but the national funeral chains by then had already acquired over 75% of the B.C. funeral service providers.
- The FFA also filed three trademark oppositions against misdescriptive (deceptive) trademark filings made by SCI