By GalTime Consumer Watchdog Mary Schwager
After getting thousands of complaints from people ripped off by rogue movers, the Feds are cracking down! A new law, hot off the presses with President Obama's signature, will actually help people in hostage situations. If you're now thinking "hostage situation"? She said "moving" not "kidnapping," right? You won't believe what's been happening.
We first told readers earlier this year about how unscrupulous companies were low-balling consumers with cheap over-the-phone or online estimates. Then when the movers showed up, they'd pack up people's stuff, put it on the truck and say, "We quoted you $2,000 for this move, but there's more than we thought, so the price is really $10,000. Pay it, or we're not giving you your possessions back!" Sounds crazy but, actually, in 2011 the US Department of Transportation had 2,851 complaints about moving companies, a 17% increase from 2010. The agency moved to shut down 75 companies last year as a result.
Beginning this month (October 2012) the US DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) can now impose a fine of up to $10,000 a day on movers holding people's items hostage. It's a new tool for Uncle Sam to hit scammers in their bank accounts. How much of a difference will this make? Ted Stimpson from MyMove.com says, "Rogue movers now have a heavy stick on them-- $10,000 a day isn't peanuts. FMCSA now has more regulatory power to crack down on the bad apples, and I hope this deterrent will become an effective tool to reduce the number of moving scams."
Starting October 2014, (you'll have to wait a bit for this part of the law to go into effect), owners of new moving companies will have to pass tests on consumer protection and moving cost estimates. Getting an accurate estimate is one of the keys to making sure a move goes smoothly. Stimpson adds that, of course, there are good movers out there. "Honest moving companies will send a representative to your home to perform an in-person, written estimate. It's as much in their interest as it is yours to give you a realistic estimate and deliver on their promise. Honest companies stand by their name, quality of service and reputation. They need positive referrals to stay in business. While moving scams are indeed a problem, we don't want to be alarmist-- our research shows that two-thirds of consumers who use professional movers are satisfied with their experience."
How to file a complaint:
If you need to file a complaint about a bad mover or hostage situation contact the FMCSA.
Related: 4 FREE Scam Fighting Apps
Helpful Links to check out a mover:
Before you EVER hire a mover, check out this booklet brought to us by the US Department of Transportation, which has fielded its share of complaints about movers over the years. The American Moving and Storage Association, the trade association for moving companies also has a handy booklet with great tips.
Moving from one state to another?
The US DOT regulates companies that move your possessions from one state to another. Before you hire a mover to do that, be sure to look it up here and see if it has any complaints. The American Moving and Storage Association has tips on its website and a "ProMove" program to help you find an interstate mover who's passed a background screening and is certified by the association. They say it's like giving them the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval."
Moving within the same state?
State agencies usually regulate companies that do intrastate moves, meaning they move your stuff from one place to another within the same state. Here's a link to help you find out who regulates movers in your state. Call that office and see if the company you want to hire has any complaints.
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