Following a few simple rules when selecting a mover will go a long way toward protecting yourself from being victimized by scams this summer, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA). Chief among them: make sure you know who you’re hiring and know your rights.
May is National Moving Month, the start of the busiest time of the year for changing residences. More than 37 million Americans—or about 13 percent—move to a different home every year, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
Every year, however, both BBB and AMSA receive complaints from consumers who have fallen prey to dishonest and often unlicensed moving companies. BBB received more than 8,900 complaints against movers in 2010—a five percent increase over the previous year—primarily about damaged or lost goods and final prices in excess of original estimates. In a too-frequent worst-case scenario, the moving company holds the customer's belongings “hostage” and requires potentially thousands of dollars to unload the van.
One particularly-egregious complaint last year involved a consumer who hired a moving company found on Craigslist. A-1-A Jay's Way Moving quoted a reasonable price of $80 per hour. It wasn’t until they arrived at the new apartment that A-1-A Jay’s Way Moving upped the price to $800 – practically doubling the quoted price.
Demanding the payment in cash, A-1-A Jay’s Way Moving refused to unload the belongings and threatened that the furniture would be taken to storage, leaving the consumer no choice but to pay the drastic difference in price.
BBB discovered that the company did not have its required licensing as a household mover with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). A-1-A Jay’s Way Moving did not respond to the complaint.
"Because anyone with a truck and a website can claim to be a mover, our industry is plagued by con artists who don’t adhere to standards for honesty and ethical conduct," said AMSA President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr. "When it comes to such an important decision, you can prevent a lot of headaches by checking on a company in advance to identify which put customer service and integrity first. For interstate moves, that means an AMSA-certified ProMover."
"Checking a mover's credentials is critical and easy. Last year alone, consumers relied on BBB more than one million times for finding a trustworthy mover," said Stephen A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. "When making the final choice, go with a BBB Accredited Businesses or, at the very least, choose a business that has a good rating with BBB."
BBB and AMSA offer the following checklist for finding a trustworthy moving company:Research the company thoroughly. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the federal government and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify on FMCSA’s website, www.protectyourmove.gov. Also check the company's rating with your BBB, which maintains more than 17,000 Business Reviews on movers across North America. Having at least a satisfactory BBB rating is one of seven screenings AMSA relies on when authorizing its interstate mover members to display the ProMover logo, the sign of a quality, professional mover which has pledged to abide by the organization's Code of Ethics. Get at least three written in-home estimates. No legitimate mover will offer to give you a firm price online or over the phone. Also keep in mind that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer which can cost you more in the end. Know your rights. Research your rights as a consumer with either FMCSA for interstate moves or the state in which you reside for moves within that state. Also, enlist the help of BBB or local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or threatens to hold your belongings hostage. FMCSA requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims. Consider getting full value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate a headache after your move. Investing in full (replacement) value protection means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at its current market value, regardless of age. It’s important to note that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost, for example, of a flat panel TV if damaged in transit.
More tips and information on how to choose a mover and plan your move are available at AMSA's consumer website; and the U.S. Department of Transportation's site. To research a mover or find your nearest Better Business Bureau, visit www.bbb.org.About BBB As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 65 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews and BBB Wise Giving Reports to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit www.bbb.org/us for more information. About AMSA The American Moving & Storage Association, headquartered in Alexandria, Va., is the trade association representing the nation’s moving and storage companies, which provide household goods moving services, specialized transportation for sensitive freight such as computers and trade show exhibits, and warehouse storage services. The association has 3,200 members, including more than 200 international members, and sponsors programs and activities that promote consumer protection, professional development, safety, and operational efficiency.