Funeral Industry Scared to Death of Competition

According to a recent story in The New York Times, the business of transporting the recently deceased to funeral homes is being taken up by independent entrepreneurs in many states, often at the annoyance of established funeral directors.

The Times, which just recently wrote a story and a broader overview of burdensome state licensing requirements, notes that some states regulate this industry more lightly than others, and that many licensed funeral directors are now demanding additional regulation.

“While in some places, like New York, such work must be carried out under the auspices of licensed funeral directors, in others, like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, private contractors without any special permits may pick up bodies.”

While the story lists no specific examples of independent contractors causing a problem, the Times quotes the president of the New York State Association of County Coroners and Medical Examiners, saying simply, “There are some states you don’t even have to be a funeral director,” as his justification for new licensing laws.

The Institute for Justice has taken on similar regulatory pushes in the past. Last year, the Archdiocese of Newark challenged a New Jersey law that criminalized the unlicensed sale of headstones.

IJ Attorney Renee Flaherty commented on this new push for more occupational licensing:

“It’s unfortunate, but unsurprising, that the funeral industry’s reaction to honest competition is to call for more regulation. A funeral is likely to be one of the most expensive purchases a family will ever make, and one of the hardest. It is important that people have choices and that entrepreneurs are able to respond to the need to keep prices down. Unreasonable regulations benefit no one but the funeral industry’s pocketbooks.”

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