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Manhattan U.S. Attorney Settles Lawsuit Against Westchester Funeral Home And Its President For Unfair Trade Practices

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 2, 2014

Defendants Agree to Remedy Numerous Unfair Trade Practices and Pay $32,000 Penalty

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today the settlement of a lawsuit against HARRISON FUNERAL HOME, INC. (“HARRISON”), a funeral home in Westchester County, New York, and its President JOHN BALSAMO (“BALSAMO”) for engaging in unfair and deceptive acts or practices in connection with the provision of funeral services. The settlement, in the form of a consent decree, was based on a Complaint filed in May 2012 in White Plains federal court and approved today by U.S. District Judge Nelson Stephen Román.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “As part of today’s settlement, Harrison Funeral Home admitted that it violated a federal rule designed to ensure that people receive fair pricing information from funeral providers. As this suit and settlement demonstrate, we will continue to use our statutory powers to act against unscrupulous businesses that take advantage of consumers in their most vulnerable moments.”

According to the Complaint filed in White Plains federal court:

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) promulgated what is known as the Funeral Rule to ensure that people inquiring about funeral arrangements receive full and fair pricing information and are not taken advantage of by funeral providers through inflated prices, overcharges, double charges, or unnecessary services. The law requires that information about prices be disclosed to persons inquiring about funeral arrangements and that they be given written price lists and statements of the funeral goods they selected to purchase.

The Complaint alleges that HARRISON committed violations of the Funeral Rule by failing to provide the required price lists to persons inquiring about funeral services on four separate occasions. Although HARRISON and BALSAMO were advised of their violations of the Funeral Rule and given the option of enrolling in a voluntary program aimed at preventing future violations, HARRISON and BALSAMO failed to enroll their employees in the program’s required trainings and continued to violate the Funeral Rule.

*                      *                      *

In the consent decree, HARRISON and BALSAMO admit that they violated the Funeral Rule. The consent decree permanently enjoins HARRISON and BALSAMO from violating the Funeral Rule in the future, requires defendants to submit compliance notices to the FTC for the next twenty years, and requires defendants to maintain certain records and to submit to compliance reviews. In addition, HARRISON and BALSAMO will pay a $32,000 civil penalty to the United States.

The case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Natalie N. Kuehler and Ellen Blain are in charge of the case.

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