This past year, the Better Business Bureau in Canada and the U.S. reported that consumers sent in more than 8,500 complaints about movers who had damaged or stolen home possessions, damaged property, or delivered the consumer’s furniture late.
However, the biggest complaint was that movers offered a low estimate to customers, then raised the fees after loading the truck. The states of Massachusetts and New Jersey decided to come down on companies who practiced this scam. These moving companies were holding customers’ belongings hostage, and even threatened to auction off the furniture unless the clients came up with the remainder of the balance.
In order to avoid being taken advantage of by this and other moving scams, it’s important to be aware of ways that you can make sure you get a fair deal.
According to Consumer Reports, it can be challenging to hire the right moving company. Similar to applying for a mortgage loan or purchasing a home, hiring movers is something you’ll probably only have to do a few times in your life. Consumer Reports offers these tips for getting the right movers.
- Get referrals. Don’t look online or in the newspaper to find a moving company. Instead, ask family and friends to recommend a moving company to you. You can also talk to your real estate agent or coworkers to see if they can refer you to quality movers.
- Get estimates. It’s best to get an estimate from at least three moving companies you’re considering. Ask if the movers will be transporting your goods in marked trucks; this is a sign the company isn’t hiding anything. Make sure that all the estimates you receive are in writing so you can refer to them when the movers arrive.
- Get accurate information on the moving company. Be wary, even when you find a positive review for a moving company on a reputable consumer website. Consumer Reports stated that officials in New Jersey announced what they found in a sting operation, involving 25 moving companies who were unlicensed and had listings on sites like Angie’s List and Craigslist. Many of the companies had outstanding warrants. If you need an interstate mover, make sure the company is licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
- Look for signs. Federal and state websites will often list moving company complaints. You should also check the Better Business Bureau website at bbb.org for complaints. Search on websites like Yelp! for reviews and complaints. If you see too many negative complaints, steer clear of the company.
- Be aware of your rights. Some states mandate that moving companies give you a pamphlets detailing your rights as a consumer. Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move is a federal write-up and applies to interstate moving, but you should still look it over if you’re moving in-state.
As soon as you see that some of your items are missing or damaged, contact the mover. Be sure you have a copy of the procedures that are necessary to file a complaint or inquiry with the moving company. If you think that the moving company broke the law, get in touch with the attorney general in your state, the licensing agency for the mover, and the consumer protection agency. You can also go to small claims court if the mover is holding your goods illegally or trying to charge you a higher price than what was originally agreed upon. If you need to, send the moving company a letter clearly outlining your complaint and your intention to sue.
Remember to remain calm if you’ve dealt with a fraudulent mover. Be firm, but don’t lose your temper. This will help your case if you have to take further legal action.