Local man says deception behind cremation services company prompts warning
A local funeral home owner is warning the community about a cremation company he says is taking advantage of families after the death of a loved one. Although it’s not a scam, funeral directors from both North Dakota and Minnesota say that Heritage Cremation Provider is being deceptive with its customers. So what’s behind these claims?
“You had a loved one that died, and all of a sudden they were kicked when they were down," said Dan Dahl, a funeral home owner from East Grand Forks.
Dahl says he’s experienced a family where a father died and they hired Heritage Cremation Provider about five months ago.
"They said this Heritage Cremation Society, tell me about it because we got issues. I asked what the issues were and they said dad is still at the hospital three days later. When they called Heritage, their local chapter were extremely busy and full,” explains Dahl.
The company is not located in Minnesota or North Dakota, and is not registered as a business with either state. They are also not licensed by the ND State Board of Funeral Services and Minnesota Department of Health.
"They don't meet with families, they do everything online," Dahl said.
Heritage Cremation is essentially a web based marketing company that collects payment upfront then subcontracts the actual service to local funeral homes. The company headquarters is in Colorado, but when we called they told us they have offices all over.
Dahl says many funeral homes decline to work for them for an array of reasons.
"We may not be compensated because they are an office in Colorado and they do what they want," he said.
A Williston family waited about a week before using Eddy Bergeron's funeral home.
"I'm more nervous than a cat on a hot tin roof,” Bergeron said. “I got this body and he is not authorizing me to cremate and we're not hearing from the people in Colorado.”
The North Dakota State Board of Funeral Service say they received one complaint about the company but can't do anything.
"it's not a complaint against a North Dakota license holder or funeral home, we just took it under advisement," explained Dale Niewoehner, President of the State Board.
He adds they can only punish license holders.
"We're concerned about the deception," Niewoehner said.
But couldn't North Dakota issue a cease and desist for the business to not advertise in the state?
"Our attorney didn't feel we should do that because there are unknown factors and it would be more problem for the board than it would be worth,” he said. “It really boils down to the consumer once gain needs to be aware of the what they are doing, and it's too good to be true.”
But you might be asking, are the funeral homes just upset their business is being taking away and being undercut? Numerous people Valley News Live talked with said flat out no.
"You get what you pay for and yes we are more expensive, but we get together with these families, we take care of them,” described Dan Dahl.
Valley News Live reached out to Heritage Cremation Provider for a comment, and had not yet received a response as of Thursday night.
The North Dakota Attorney General’s Office said this would not fall under the Department of Consumer Protection, instead it’s up to the North Dakota State Board of Funeral Service to take any action.
As for Minnesota, a Department of Health spokesperson says they've received complaints against Heritage Cremation Provider and they have been in contact with the Federal Trade Commission.
Legal action has been taken by the states of Florida and Oregon. And just last year, North Carolina ordered the company to cease and desist from advertising in the state.
If you have experienced issues with Heritage Cremation, report it to the North Dakota State Board of Funeral Service or the Minnesota Department of Health. We've put links to both websites in this story.