StoneMor Partners L.P. has agreed to repay Pennsylvania consumers for allegedly deceptive business practices at the cemeteries the company owns and operates throughout the state through its subsidiaries.
StoneMor sells burial services including vaults to consumers under “pre-need” agreements where a consumer pays upfront or finances payments for burial services including a vault to be provided upon the date of death.
Under Pennsylvania law, 70 percent of the money the consumer pays is required to be held in a trust fund, which helps to ensure money will be available upon death to cover services and goods needed at that time. According to the investigation, Stonemor’s subsidiaries would initially fund the trust. The company, in certain instances, would then engage in what is called “constructive delivery,” meaning that it would ahead of time install a vault in the ground or store it for later delivery. The company would then withdraw from the trust fund monies allocated to the vaults.
The Office of Attorney General found consumers were not properly informed of this practice of constructive delivery, except in a well-hidden fine print of the contract signed upon purchase.
“Consumers have a right to be fully and fairly informed of all important terms of a contract before signing, and companies have an obligation to fully and fairly provide that information,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Instead, this company failed to meaningfully inform consumers of information they needed to know ahead of time.”
As part of the settlement, StoneMor has agreed to pay a total of $50,000; $25,000 to consumers who have been harmed by StoneMor’s practices, and $25,000 to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Consumers or family members who believe they have been harmed by this constructive delivery practice have until June 16 to submit a claim or complaint to be considered for the restitution. Consumers may submit complaints through the Office of Attorney General’s website or by calling 1-800-441-2555.