DC’s attorney general proposes that funeral costs be transparent

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is proposing that a citizen commission develop a Districtwide funeral bill of rights, as well as a requirement that businesses post their costs online. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — It can be one of the most difficult parts of life: preparing a funeral after a loved one’s passing. After finding a funeral home was taking advantage of customers, the District’s attorney general now wants the D.C. Council to consider transparency in funeral costs.

Attorney General Karl Racine remembers how vulnerable he was through the process of preparing his father’s funeral, and how many financial decisions needed to be made while grieving.

“There’s a lot of emotion at play in regards to the decision as to which service or even what casket you’re going to purchase,” Racine said.

After reaching a settlement with Austin Royster Funeral home, which Racine said must now repay $280,000 to some 60 customers it fleeced, he’s proposing that a citizen commission develop a districtwide funeral bill of rights, as well as a requirement that the businesses post their costs online.

“The consumer should know what choice they have in regards to buying products related to a burial or a cremation,” he said.

His legislation now goes to the council, which will probably schedule a hearing.

In November 2017, Racine filed a lawsuit against Austin Royster and won a temporary restraining order against the funeral home after discovering it was operating without proper licenses and was engaged in numerous deceptive and potentially unlawful practices.

According to the attorney general’s 2017 complaint, filed under the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, Austin Royster allegedly harmed consumers by misleading them about its ability to provide funeral services, taking their money and failing to refund overpayments, and failing to provide services as promised.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up