Abuse of funeral homes before the Covid-19
We are hearing from relatives of those who died from Coronavirus who are receiving excessive prices from the companies in charge of processing the funeral service. Some funeral homes take advantage of the excessive demand for their services to increase prices and obtain an additional benefit, taking advantage of the congestion that most companies in the sector are suffering from the multitude of deceased people.
In view of these morally reprehensible practices, the Ministry of Health has approved Order SND/298/2020, of March 29, establishing measures exceptions in connection with wakes and funeral ceremonies to limit the spread and contagion of COVID-19. Among other measures, this ministerial order prohibits funeral services from increasing their prices after March 14, 2020.
Unfortunately, there are several affected who comment having received strange services on the invoice that would increase the cost of the service. Others assure that the funeral home required the use of special coffins that imported an additional cost. Or the breakdown of services was correct but the total amount was disproportionate.
We will formulate below some of the questions that in general may be raised by relatives who have suffered this abusive practice by funeral companies, and we will also provide answers to them. p>
What if I’ve already been charged that excessive amount?
In the event that the service has already been paid for, the ministerial order obliges funeral homes to return to clients the amounts charged in excess. Funeral homes have the obligation not to increase their prices in these times of social emergency, but if the price has already been paid, the client will have the right to claim the abusive amounts they have paid.
How much can a client who has been abused by a funeral home claim?
The client may request a refund of the abusive amounts that they have been charged. For these purposes, an amount that exceeds the ordinary price of that same funeral home before March 14, 2020 will be considered an abusive amount. In this way, if the company had been charging €2,500 in previous months and now an amount of €5,000 has been received € for the same service, the injured customer will have the right to claim the difference, that is, €2,500.
The client may also request a refund of the amounts charged for services that cannot be provided due to the state of alarm and the emergency social situation caused by the coronavirus. It must be taken into account that the aforementioned ministerial order establishes restrictions on funeral practices, and therefore not all the services that these companies usually provide can be carried out normally. Services that are ultimately not going to be provided because they are prohibited may not be charged.
When can I claim a refund of the amounts wrongly collected?
The ministerial order approved on March 29, 2020 establishes a period of 6 months to claim the return of amounts paid in excess. However, this period will not begin until the end date of the state of alarm. Once the Government has agreed to end the state of alarm, the affected consumer will have, from that day, a maximum period of 6 months to address their claim.
However, this does not mean that the consumer who has suffered these abusive practices by the funeral home should wait for the state of alarm measures to be lifted. The claim can be made immediately.
How can I make my claim for the refund of amounts?
It is advisable to send a request for reimbursement to the funeral home in writing. It is convenient to leave a record of the sending and receiving of that request, and for this the most advisable thing is that the notification be sent by means of a burofax. The burofax certifies the date of sending and receiving, and also the content of the letter that has been sent.
If the funeral home answers denying the refund of the amounts or if it does not offer any response, the client will have the right to claim through the courts what corresponds to him by law. This judicial claim must also be made within the 6-month period established by the ministerial order that we are commenting on.
How do I find out the prices offered by that funeral home before March 14, 2020?
If the funeral home does not have a price catalog, either in its physical premises, in its offices or on its website, you can always resort to other clients who have contracted the services services of that funeral home prior to March 14, 2020.
The price policy may also be required by the consumer, in fact the ministerial order obliges funeral companies to deliver the price list that was in force prior to approval of the state of alarm.
What other obligations must funeral homes have in relation to those affected by COVID-19?
Funeral homes are required to provide an itemized budget with the services to be performed and the cost of each one, before the work is carried out. p>
In addition, this budget must be accompanied by the price list that the company had been offering prior to March 14, 2020.
When an excessive amount has already been charged, or when services that ultimately cannot be provided have been billed, ex officio funeral homes are obliged to reimburse the amounts overcharged. Said obligation operates without the need for the client to have requested the funeral home for the return of amounts.
Where can I find the rule that has approved these measures to prevent price increases by funeral homes?
The ministerial order that approves these measures was published in the BOE on March 29, 2020, we provide below the link where the full text can be consulted: https://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2020/03/30/pdfs/BOE-A-2020-4173.pdf
However, we reproduce below the content of the sixth section of that standard, which regulates the contracting conditions for funeral services that we have just discussed.
“Sixth. Contracting conditions for funeral services.
During the period of validity of the state of alarm, the prices of funeral services may not be higher than the prices in force prior to March 14, 2020. In the case of services already paid at prices higher than those established with Prior to March 14, 2020, the company must automatically initiate the refund of the difference, leaving a record of the actions carried out for this purpose in the event that it cannot be carried out. In this case, the user will have six months from the date the state of alarm ended to request the corresponding refund. Funeral service companies must provide the user, prior to contracting the service, with a detailed budget for each of the items included therein and the current price list prior to March 14, 2020, even in the assumption that it is necessary to carry out specific actions as a result of deaths caused by COVID-19. Regarding the contracted services or products that cannot be enjoyed or delivered to the user due to the measures implemented by virtue of Royal Decree 463/2020 and its implementing regulations, the amounts already paid corresponding to said services or products. Failure to comply with any of the obligations established in this section will be considered an infringement for the purposes of the provisions of Royal Legislative Decree 1/2007, of November 16, which approves the consolidated text of the OFFICIAL STATE GAZETTE No. 88 Monday, March 30, 2020 Sec. I. Page 27646 cve: BOE-A-2020-4173 Verifiable at https://www.boe.es General Law for the Defense of Consumers and Users and other complementary laws .”
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