§ 10-14-17. Prohibited acts; fees.

CODE OF GEORGIA

Title 10. COMMERCE AND TRADE

Chapter 14. GEORGIA CEMETERY AND FUNERAL SERVICES ACT OF 2000

Current through 2019 Chapter 321

§ 10-14-17. Prohibited acts; fees

(a) It shall be unlawful for any person:
(1) To sell or offer to sell any burial rights, burial or funeral services, or burial or funeral merchandise by means of any oral or written untrue statement of a material fact or any omission to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in the light of the circumstances under which they are made, not misleading, the buyer not knowing of the untruth or omission, if such person shall not sustain the burden of proof that he did not know, and in the exercise of reasonable care could not have known, of the untruth or omission;
(2) To sell or offer to sell any, burial rights, burial or funeral services, or burial or funeral merchandise in violation of any provision of this chapter or rule, regulation, or order promulgated or issued by the Secretary of State under any provision of this chapter;
(3) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (4) of this subsection, in connection with the sale of preneed merchandise or services requiring funds to be deposited into a preneed escrow account, to fail to refund, within three business days of the request of the purchaser or the purchaser's heirs or assigns, the sales prices plus applicable interest as determined according to rules promulgated by the Secretary of State, provided that such request is made prior to the earlier of:
(A) The delivery of the merchandise or services; or
(B) The death of the person for whose interment or inurnment the merchandise or services are intended to be used.

Certain solicitations during a person's last illness relating to refunds shall be a violation of Part 2 of Article 15 of Chapter 1 of this title, the "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975," as set out in Code Section 10-1-393.7 ;

(4) In connection with the sale of monuments or vaults, to fail to refund within three business days of the request of the purchaser or the purchaser's heirs or assigns the full sales price, without interest, provided that such request is made prior to the earlier of:
(A) The delivery of the merchandise or services; or
(B) The death of the person for whose interment or inurnment the monument or vault is intended to be used.

Certain solicitations during a person's last illness relating to refunds shall be a violation of Part 2 of Article 15 of Chapter 1 of this title, the "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975," as set out in Code Section 10-1-393.7 ;

(5) To misappropriate, convert, illegally withhold, or fail to account for any trust funds, escrow funds, or other funds established or maintained pursuant to this chapter;
(6) Knowingly to cause to be made, in any document filed with the Secretary of State or in any proceeding under this chapter, any statement which is, at the time it is made and in the light of the circumstances under which it is made, false or misleading in any material respect;
(7) To sell, offer to sell, solicit offers to buy, or otherwise engage in the sale of funeral services if such person is not a licensed funeral director;
(7.1) To sell, offer to sell, solicit offers to buy, or otherwise engage in the sale of burial rights or burial merchandise if such person is not registered pursuant to the provisions of this chapter; or
(8) To sell any grave space which has not been platted and pinned.
(b) It shall be unlawful for any person in connection with the ownership, offer, sale, or purchase of any burial rights, burial or funeral services, or burial or funeral merchandise, directly or indirectly:
(1) To employ any device, scheme, or artifice to defraud; or
(2) To engage in any transaction, act, practice, or course of business which operates or would operate as a fraud or deceit upon the purchaser or seller.
(c) In connection with the sale or installation of merchandise, it shall be unlawful for a cemetery company to:
(1) Impose any condition upon the installation of merchandise obtained from a third party, other than to require installation by a registrant under this chapter or as may be otherwise permitted by the rules and regulations of the Secretary of State;
(2) Charge a fee for the installation of merchandise purchased or obtained from and to be installed by a person or firm other than the cemetery company or its agents, provided that the cemetery owner may charge a fee not to exceed $125.00 to reimburse the cemetery owner for its reasonable costs incurred in assisting in the siting of a monument on the lot on which it is to be installed, supervision and inspection of the installation to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations of the cemetery, and any administrative functions associated with the installation; provided, further, any such fee is properly disclosed and published as required by this chapter and charged regardless of whether the installer is or is not the cemetery owner or affiliated therewith;
(3) Refuse to mark the place on the grave where the merchandise is to be installed and inspect the installation when completed to ensure compliance with cemetery rules and regulations;
(4) Require any person or firm that installs, places, or sets merchandise to pay any fee other than any fee charged pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection;
(5) Tie the purchase of any grave space or burial right to the purchase of merchandise from or through the seller or any other designated person or corporation;
(6) Refuse to provide care or maintenance for any portion of a grave site on which a monument has been placed, provided that installation has been in accordance with lawful rules and regulations of the cemetery;
(7) Attempt to waive liability with respect to damage caused by cemetery employees or agents to merchandise after installation, where merchandise or installation service is not purchased from the cemetery company providing grave space or from or through any other person or corporation designated by the person authorized to sell grave space or the cemetery company providing grave space; provided, however, that no cemetery company may be held liable for the improper installation of merchandise where merchandise is not installed by the cemetery company or its agents; or
(8) After the promulgation of rules and regulations relating to the subject matter of this subsection by the Secretary of State, to require any person who installs, places, or sets merchandise to obtain any form of insurance, bond, or surety or make any form of pledge, deposit, or monetary guarantee as a condition of entry or access to cemetery property or the installation of merchandise thereon, other than as may be in accordance with said rules and regulations.
(d) Other than fees for the processing and for the sale of burial rights, burial or funeral merchandise, and burial or funeral services, no other fee may be directly or indirectly charged, contracted for, or received by a cemetery company as a condition for a customer to use any burial right, burial or funeral merchandise, or burial or funeral service, except for:
(1) Charges paid for opening and closing a grave and vault installation;
(2) Charges paid for transferring burial rights from one purchaser to another; however, no such fee may exceed $75.00 and such fee must have been disclosed in writing to the owner at the time of the initial purchase of the burial right from the cemetery;
(3) Charges for sales, documentary, excise, and other taxes actually and necessarily paid to a public official, which charges must be supported in fact;
(4) Charges for credit life and credit disability insurance, but only as requested by the purchaser, and the premiums for which do not exceed the applicable premium chargeable in accordance with the rates filed with the Insurance Commissioner; or
(5) Charges for interest on unpaid balances in accordance with applicable law.

Nothing herein shall prohibit a cemetery company from charging a reasonable fee for services it provides in connection with a lawful disinterment, provided such charges do not exceed the greater of the cemetery company's normal and customary charges for interment or the actual costs incurred by the cemetery directly attributable to such disinterment. Nothing herein shall prohibit a cemetery from charging a reasonable fee for actual costs it incurs due to the commencement of a funeral service at a time other than previously agreed by the cemetery company, the funeral establishment, and the owner of the burial rights, or his or her heirs and assigns, provided such charges are calculated in a manner which is disclosed and published as required by this chapter and that such charges are directly attributable to extra costs incurred by the cemetery company due to such late commencement.

(e) In connection with the sale of burial rights, burial or funeral merchandise, or burial or funeral services, it shall be unlawful for any person to fail to comply with the provisions of Article 1 of Chapter 1 of this title, "The Georgia Retail Installment and Home Solicitation Sales Act" or Part 2 of Article 15 of Chapter 1 of this title, the "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975." For the purposes of this subsection, burial rights, burial or funeral services, and burial or funeral merchandise shall constitute goods as that term is used in said article and said part.
(f) In connection with the installation of a monument:
(1) It shall be unlawful for any person installing said monument to fail to comply with the lawful rules and regulations of the cemetery regarding monument installation, provided that said rules and regulations are provided in writing to the installer prior to the installation. In the event such installation is not in conformity with said rules and regulations, the installer shall be liable to the cemetery for the actual cost of correcting such installation so it will be in conformity, provided that:
(A) The cemetery has notified the installer by certified mail, return receipt requested, of the reasons for the nonconformity not later than one year after the date of the installation; and
(B) The installer, provided it is registered under this chapter, shall have had not less than 30 days from its receipt of such notice to correct such nonconformity; and
(2) An installer of a monument shall be liable to the cemetery, to its customers, and to third persons for damages to their respective property and for other damages arising due to the negligence or intentional act of such installer, which liability may not be waived by contract.
(g) No program offering free burial rights may be conditioned on any requirement to purchase additional burial rights, burial or funeral merchandise, or burial or funeral services.
(h) The contract rights of any purchaser of preneed merchandise shall be freely transferable without fee except as provided in this chapter.
(i) It shall be unlawful for any owner or operator of a perpetual care cemetery to fail to provide care and maintenance for the cemetery.
(j) The fees set forth in this Code section shall be annually adjusted to the rate of change in the Consumer Price Index as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor. The Secretary of State shall adopt such adjustments to the amount of said fees by rule.

Cite as OCGA § 10-14-17

History. Amended by 2017 Ga. Laws 275, §10, eff. 5/9/2017.

Amended by 2012 Ga. Laws 637, §13, eff. 7/1/2012.

Amended by 2006 Ga. Laws 944, §6, eff. 7/1/2006.