Millions of Americans move in and out of different states each year, making the moving industry a prosperous market with countless moving services trumpeting professionalism and affordable rates. Unfortunately, what you see isn't always what you get when it comes to moving. No matter how extensive you thought your research was, some of the details might have gone by the wayside in between padding your dining room table and bubble wrapping your favorite painting.
These things happen, but the most important thing is to be proactive in how you handle any complaint you may have with your moving company. Yes, moving is stressful, but don't wait until the last minute to try and get compensated for lost or damaged goods.
Types of complaints
- My shipment was late: Make sure you take note of what date is written on your bill of lading. Your moving company must deliver your goods by this "reasonable dispatch" date or you may be eligible for compensation. This includes but is not limited to: hotel stays, meals, transportation, etc.
- My belongings are lost/damaged: Unfortunately, there can be a high risk of damaged goods when you place your belongings in someone else's hands. Your furniture and household items go through a lot of lugging and travel before they reach your final destination. If you notice anything that is damaged once the service makes the delivery, do not sign the bill of lading. If you do, filing a complaint may become problematic.
- I was overcharged for my delivery: We always suggest that you get at least three estimates when you are scouting out moving companies. The reason for this is because sometimes, movers may try to scam you by offering an extremely low estimate, then later demand an amount much higher than the original price. The mover even holds the customer's goods hostage in the truck sometimes, forcing the customer to pay this obscene amount. Make sure you are aware of the types of estimates moving companies have, and file a complaint if you feel you were overcharged.
Be aware that you will be charged extra for any extra stairs the moving crew had to climb, long carries, hoisting of furniture and goods that weren't accounted for in the original estimate; however, these charges will be billed to you.
Who do I file a complaint with?
- File a complaint with your mover. Proper communication is essential when trying to file a complaint against your movers. Talking with them directly may be the easiest way to resolve any issues that occurred during the moving process. A claim against your moving company must be filed in writing, as it is illegal for moving companies, interstate or intrastate, to alter any set charges without written documentation.
- File a complaint with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). FMCSA has no authority to seek legal action for your claim; it is still crucial to let the US Department of Transportation know about your case. You can file a claim based on issues with licensure of the company, final overcharging (charges exceeding 110 percent of a non-binding estimate), lost of damaged items, failure to deliver by date noted on the bill of lading, etc. FMCSA requires your moving company to, at the very least, acknowledge your claim within 30 days, and they will have 120 days to resolve or deny your claim. You can file the complaint online or call toll-free (888) 368-7238. FMSCA operates Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. EST. A government representative will help you with filing your claim. Here's the information you will need to provide when filling out the form:
- Your name, address, and telephone number
- The name, address, and telephone number of your moving company
- Bill of Lading Number
- Origin and destination of your shipment
- Mover's DOT number and MC number
- Specific violations you are claiming
- File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. It is also a good idea to file a complaint against your moving company with the Better Business Bureau. You can fill out a form in person at your nearest location or submit a form online. If your moving company is BBB accredited, this is a good option because it will set your claim process in motion quickly. Within two days, BBB will contact your moving company about your pending claim, at which time the company will have 14 days to reply. If there is no response within this 14-day period, a second request is sent to the company from the BBB. You will be informed of the status of your claim as the information becomes available - most of the time, moving complaints close within 30 days.
- File a complaint with the American Moving and Storage Association. You can submit a complaint against your moving company through the American Moving and Storage Association as well. To do this, you can go to AMSA's website and submit the form for a shipment delay or service performance. If you have a complaint having to do with damaged or lost goods or overcharging, you have to fill out a Request for Arbitration form within the Household Goods Settlement Program. AMSA will contact the moving company for you regarding your claim, but has no intervening legal authority. Keep in mind arbitration requests come with an administrative fee that must be paid by you or your movers, depending on the circumstance.
- Write a Moving Review. While you might not think that this makes a difference, it certainly does. With so many people using the internet and social media as a means to find reputable services, any bad review online isn't to be taken lightly. The moving company can hear your side of the story and provide an answer to your review as well. You can remove the review if you and your moving company resolve the complaint and reach a settlement.
- The last resort: small claims court. Sometimes, after all the fuss of going through the complaint process, the end isn't as you expected. If you feel the resolution to your claim or complaint did not meet your standards, going to small claims court would be the next step. For this process, you'll need all documentation of your damaged or lost goods, and any receipts applicable to the goods in question (receipts for the actual items, or receipts on expenses paid as a result of the lost or damaged goods). You will also want to consult with a legal professional before proceeding with a small claims case, as legal fees can go far beyond any compensation you may receive.
Tips to avoid the complaint
- Get more than one estimate: Just because the first moving service sounds good, it may not be. Shop around before you commit.
- Ask about extra costs: Moving services can tack on extra fees for various things like carrying items up and down stairs (if they weren't initially aware), a shuttle service if the moving truck can't park on your street, packing materials, etc. BE AS DETAILED AS POSSIBLE.
- Read your contract: Don't just sign. Read it through more than once and if anything looks cryptic to you, ask your movers to explain it - especially when it comes to fine print.
- Check the BBB and company reviews: You want a mover you can trust and that treats you with the professionalism you deserve. See what other customers have to say about the company before hiring.
- Make sure they are licensed and registered: All interstate movers are required to register for a DOT number by FMCSA so that they are subject to safety regulations and vehicle inspections. You'll also want to make sure your moving company gives you Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move manual, as it is required.
If you need help finding a reputable moving service, start here at Movers.com by getting a free quote.Photo by: David Castillo Dominici (Freedigitalphotos.net)