ADA — Oklahoma State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, Dist. 54 - Moore, is attempting to introduce a bill during the upcoming legislative session in February that would disband what he calls this state's "casket cartel."

The "competitive casket" bill would give residents of the state the opportunity to purchase caskets from other stores within Oklahoma, such as Wal-Mart or CostCo, a choice that is currently prohibited. Oklahoma is one of four states in the nation that still forbids the purchase of caskets from other sources in the state than a funeral home.

"After a home and a car, a funeral is the third largest single expenditure that most consumers will ever have to make," Wesselhoft said.

Wesselhoft, a retired U.S. Military chaplain, said he knows and has witnessed the financial burden that funerals bring onto families.

"A family from Poteau asked a funeral director for the least expensive funeral they could purchase and their bill was $7,000," he said. "When you can cut the cost of a casket by 100 or 200 percent, you're saving a low-income family $2,000 or more. That's a tremendous gift to give to a grieving family."

Although stores within Oklahoma are not allowed to sell caskets,Wesselholft said there are other options to find a lower price, such as the internet.

"Right now, funeral homes cannot refuse caskets purchased online that are from out-of-state," he said. "If they do, they will be penalized by the federal government with a $10,000 fine. They also cannot charge a handling fee like they have done in the past, to discourage purchasing online."

Online pricing of caskets drop when compared to their funeral-home-sold counterparts. For example, the average price of a blue stainless steel casket from a funeral home is about $3,900, compared to a price of $1,990 for the very same item online.

Wesselhoft notes Oklahoma's Bill of Rights state "that monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free government, and shall never be allowed," and is in direct violation of the law that was passed in 1989.

"I would encourage all consumers to contact their local representative and tell them how they feel about this piece of legislation," he said.

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