Reforming burial fees dies in transit
Years ago, you confirmed that funeral providers could keep 30 percent of funds deposited in a prepaid burial program, but that this was being looked into by some government entity. Has anything changed? We paid for the program in full because we were determined to live out our lives here. There have been no expenses to the providers in collecting monthly payments or keeping records. Now, we find it necessary to leave the islands. I could understand a nominal cancellation fee, but since unforeseen circumstances are involved, I think it is unconscionable to charge 30 percent for a contract that has caused no problems or expense.
Answer: When we first discussed the 30 percent fee three years ago (Kokua Line, April 18, 2005), we said lawmakers were grappling with the issue of balancing the rights and needs of both consumers and the funeral industry.
Apparently, they haven't yet found that balance.
There is no proposal alive in the current state legislative session to change the requirement that gives funeral providers 30 percent of whatever is paid in a prepaid burial plan.
House Bill 815 was carried over from last year, but no hearings were ever held on it and it's effectively dead.
Senate Bill 2599, which contained an amendment that would have reduced the trusting percentage to 15 percent from 30 percent, was introduced this session, but died in the Senate, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
She said the department's Regulated Industries Complaints Office testified on the bill, but not specifically on the trusting percentage, while its Professional Vocational Licensing division testified "that any trusting legislation should consider the effect on the solvency of the cemetery and pre-need industries, as that would ultimately affect consumers."
The Senate Committee on Human Services and Public Housing took out the pertinent amendment - i.e., restored the 30 percent figure - but added another to give consumers a refund, including any interest or increase in value, if a contract is canceled or terminated.
It then passed the bill on to the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Housing, where it died.
The Hawaii Funeral Directors Association opposed the bill, saying the proposed drop to 15 percent unfairly restricts and regulates profit and that more study needs to be done.
Q: On the makai side of Kalanianaole Highway, adjacent to the Waialae Golf Course subdivision, six large yellow plastic barrels with black tops have simply been sitting at the edge of the road in two areas for several months. What are they for and why are they there? How long will they be there?
A: The sand barrels were installed for safety reasons as part of a 2007 repaving project to "protect" drivers from running into the guardrails, according to the state Department of Transportation.
They will be left there "on a permanent basis."
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
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