Moving is stressful enough when everything goes perfectly. Unfortunately, there are things that can go wrong on moving day, no matter how carefully you research your movers or how many precautions you take. Late delivery of goods, lost or damaged items, or spiked estimates may all leave you feeling frustrated, angry and helpless after a move.
Fortunately, there are measures you can take when handling complaints against your movers. This guide will briefly discuss several of the most common complaints lodged against moving companies and what you can do to rectify them.
Common complaint #1: Late delivery of goods.
A mover is required to drop off your shipment of household goods at your new home by the date indicated on your Bill of Lading. This is called "reasonable dispatch." If your goods are delivered past this date, you may be entitled to compensation.
The moving company can be held liable for expenses incurred while you were without your possessions--hotel stays, restaurant meals, etc. Keep all receipts for expenses and file an inconvenience claim with your movers within nine months of the date your shipment finally arrives.
Common complaint #2: Lost or damaged goods.
Between all the hauling, loading, and unloading, it is not unlikely that your goods become damaged or misplaced during your move. Unfortunately, the standard compensation for lost or broken possessions is a meager 60 cents per pound per item--known as Released Value Protection. To receive more comprehensive coverage you will have to purchase additional insurance from the movers or a third-party carrier. Before signing a contract, make sure you are aware of the company's liability, either under the standard coverage they offer or the additional coverage you purchase. Some moving companies will not insure belongings if you have packed them yourself. Knowing what you are entitled to as outlined in your contract will help you when filing a claim later.
Take plenty of pictures of damaged items, and don't throw them away. When you file a claim with the moving company, they may send someone to assess the damage.
Common complaint #3: Charges that exceed 110 percent of original estimate
A common scam conducted by rogue movers is to offer an unusually low estimate to ensure service, and then demand a much larger sum after picking up the goods. When the customer refuses to pay, they will hold their household items hostage until a payment is made.
Movers offer two types of estimates--binding and non-binding. Binding estimates cannot be changed, and non-binding estimates can only be increased ten percent of the original amount quoted. Exceptions are made for special services the movers did not take into consideration during the original estimate--goods in the basement they weren't told about, stairs they didn't know they'd have to climb, etc. However, extra costs for these services do not have to paid the day of the move--you should be billed and have 30 days to complete your payment.
If you feel you have been overcharged by a moving company, you can file a claim for reimbursement.
You have several options when handling a complaint with movers.
File a claim with the company.
First, you should begin by attempting to resolve the issue with the company directly. Before hiring movers, a good question to ask is what their protocol is for handling complaints. Many companies have a claims form you can fill out on their website.
You must file a written claim with the company to receive compensation--it is against the law for all interstate and most intrastate carriers to alter the charges indicated on your bill of lading without a formerly written claim.
According to federal regulations, movers cannot "voluntarily pay a claim … unless and until a formal claim in writing for a specified or determinable amount of money shall have been filed in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (b) of this section 49CFR370.3 – Filing of Claims
." This means calling the company and lodging a verbal complaint does not hold them liable for response or resolution of said complaint.
While your claim must be in writing, it does not necessarily have to be done using the company's claim form. You must submit your claim within nine months of the delivery of your goods by the movers. You should also send it by means of certified mail.
The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association) requires movers to respond to your written claim within 30 days, even if it's just to acknowledge receipt of the claim. They have 120 days to resolve the issue or deny your claim. If you are not satisfied with their offer or settlement, there are other options open to you.
File a claim with the FMCSA.
While this agency does not have the authority to legally intervene on your behalf, your complaint could prompt a federal investigation against the mover.
You can file a complaint against any interstate movers with the agency easily on their website or by calling their toll-free number: 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238). Include the following information:
- Your name, address, and telephone number
- Name, address, and telephone number of the mover/broker
- Bill of Lading Number
- Origin and destination of your shipment
- Mover’s DOT number and MC number
- Specific violations claim
Your complaint will be entered into a database, used for statistical purposes and included on the company's public record. You may be contacted by the agency if they decide to take action against the company. The FMCSA is only responsible for regulating companies that operate across state lines--for intrastate moves, contact your local regulatory agency such as the public utility commission, consumer protection office, or the office of the Attorney General.
File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.
You can file a complaint with the BBB by visiting their website and submitting an online claim form or going to the office nearest you. The organization will contact the company with your claim within two days, and the movers will be expected to respond within 14 days. If no response is received, a second request is sent. The BBB will keep you updated on the status of the correspondence, or lack thereof.
However, the BBB is not a governmental organization and cannot obligate the moving company to compensate you. They can only act as a third-party mediator to facilitate cooperation from the movers concerning your complaint.
File a complaint with the American Moving and Storage Association.
You can also file a complaint with AMSA. For shipment delay or complaints about overall customer service, you can submit a complaint form on their website. From there, they will contact the company on your behalf and attempt to bring the matter to a resolution. However, AMSA has no legal authority and cannot mandate the moving company to comply.
If your complaint is in reference to lost or damaged goods or over-charging, you may be eligible for AMSA's Arbitration Program. The National Arbitration Forum administers the program, a neutral, non-governmental organization not affiliated with the AMSA or any moving companies. Requests for arbitration are not free--administrative fees will apply to you and your movers, unless the movers offer to pay a portion or the entirety of your fees.
While arbitration is voluntary for you, it may be mandatory for your mover. Your moving company is required to accept your request for arbitration concerning disputes of less than $10,000. For disputes exceeding that amount it is not mandatory for movers to comply.
The decision made by the forum is legally binding on both you and your movers and can be enforced in court. For more information, visit the AMSA website.
Take them to small claims court.
If all else fails, you can take the moving company to small claims court. Of course, this can be expensive and exhausting. Make sure you have documented the damage done to your goods, have proof of their value (such as original receipts), receipts for expenses you incurred while waiting for the late delivery of your goods, or paperwork documenting your estimate before the mover exorbitantly hiked up the cost.
However, there are laws in place such as the 1906 Carmack Amendment that can make movers difficult to sue. This law states that movers can be sued for actual damages only--not negligence, emotional distress, fraud, etc. This means your legal fees may wind up exceeding the compensation you receive. Consider consulting an attorney or conducting further research before making the decision to go to court.Photo by: stockphotos (freedigitalphotos.net)