- 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
- The city of Vancouver received a proposal to privatize the management of the City’s only non-profit cemetery. Loewen Group, the second largest consolidator, had offered to take over the management. The groups sent letters out to 500 organizations and individuals decrying this proposal. Newspapers and TV began doing stories and 75 organizations came forward in support of the group’s bid to keep Mountain View ‘not-for-profit’. With the support of the Jewish, Chinese, Japanese. And Russian communities, combined with the United, Anglican, Pentecostal, Salvation Army and Catholic Churches, the group (then called the Civic Cemetery Society) organized and shared the cost of preparing a community proposal to compete with Loewen.
- The FFA discovered that the largest funeral consolidator Service Corporation International (SCI) of Houston Texas, was trying to trademark a name that had the clear potential to deceive the public. The name ‘Family Funeral Care’, used in conjunction with the name of the previous owner (ie: JONES FAMILY Funeral Care), could easily be used to confuse the public, giving an impression the publicly traded funeral conglomerate’s chapels were ‘family owned’.
- B.C. finally passed a law banning direct (telephone or door-to-door) solicitation of the public by funeral and/or cemetery companies.
- The groups began working with a broader cross section of consumer groups, healthcare professionals, and clergy offering in-service seminars and resources both to help improve care for the bereaved and to educate the public and regulators on the need to improve regulations.
- While hiring “find-for-a-fee” commissioned sales people allowed the national funeral chains to greatly increase their sales coverage it placed enormous competitive pressure on small businesses and the non-profit cemetery community, forcing many smaller funeral homes to sell out.