Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – May 23, 2012 - May is National Moving Month and the start of the busiest time of year for people looking to change homes. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 37 million Americans move to a different home every year and the average person moves 11.5 times in their life. Unfortunately, this can lead to unlicensed movers and dishonest scammers taking advantage of consumers who are not careful.
In 2011, movers were ranked in the BBB’s top 20 most complained about types of businesses and were in the top 10 most inquired about types of businesses. BBB received more than 1.3 million moving related inquiries and more than 9,000 complaints against movers nationally. General complaints included lost or stolen belongings, damaged items, huge price increases over quoted estimates, late deliveries and goods being “held hostage” for additional payment.
BBB has teamed up with American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) to offer tips on how to select the right mover and how to avoid scams.
"Finding a mover you can trust can be easy, if you take the time to do so,” said Warren King, President of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. "Consumers need to make sure to always check with BBB and AMSA before you find yourself paying thousands of extra dollars for damaged or lost items. BBB has more than 17,000 BBB Business Reviews on moving-related services.”
"A con artist with just a truck and a website can claim to be a legitimate mover with unfortunate results for consumers who don’t check out a company in advance,” said AMSA President and CEO Linda Bauer Darr. "When it comes to such an important decision, you can save yourself a lot of problems by finding a mover who puts customer service and integrity first. For interstate moves, that means an AMSA-certified ProMover."
BBB and AMSA offer the following checklist for finding a trustworthy moving company:
Research the company thoroughly. Compare and contrast what you find about the company and their services with their competitors to find the best fit for your needs. Check with the BBB at www.bbb.org to search for a company’s Business Review or to find a BBB accredited mover in your area. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers (a move that crosses state or country lines) must, at minimum, be licensed by the federal government and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. If you are moving within the state of Pennsylvania, a company must be licensed by the Public Utility Commission and maintain adequate levels of insurance coverage and charge fees approved by them. All movers must display their PUC number in advertisements and a list of PUC certified carriers can be found by visiting the Public Utility Commission’s website.
Get at least three written in-home estimates. Tariff charges may vary among companies and not all price quotes provided online or over the phone are accurate. Keep in mind that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer, which can end up costing you more in the end. Remember to verify that the person you are speaking with works for the actual mover and is not a household goods broker. A household goods broker generally has no authority to provide you an estimate on behalf of a specific mover and is not responsible for any loss or damages incurred.
Know your rights. Research your rights as a consumer with either the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for interstate moves or with the Public Utility Commission for moves within the state of Pennsylvania. 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 purchasing full value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate headaches after your move. Purchasing full (replacement) value protection means any lost or damaged article 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 for interstate moves would not cover the replacement cost, for example, of a flat panel TV if damaged in transit. For your protection, a new interstate regulation effective May 15 requires the cost of full value protection to be included in the estimate you receive. If you are moving within the state of Pennsylvania, the assumed liability by the mover is even less, as it covers no more than 30 cents per pound per article. Be sure to ask your mover for a written explanation of any limitations regarding articles of extraordinary value before you move.
Pay attention to red flags. If the move is being charged on weight and mileage, beware of a mover who does not insist on an on-site inspection of your household goods. The company is giving you a sight-unseen estimate and they are usually too good to be true. An estimator who does a quick walk-through of your home without opening cabinets and taking notes of exactly what you plan to move is going to provide an inaccurate estimate as well. Keep in mind that reputable movers will not demand cash or any large deposit before moving your items. You generally pay upon delivery because if you pay up front, you have zero control over when you will see your belongings again. When you do pay, it is recommended that you do so with a credit card, so you have some protection against fighting any fraudulent activity. Be sure to read the contract’s fine print carefully and look for any hidden fees or charges.
Overall, though the majority of moves are made without incident, it is in your best interest to do research on moving companies to avoid making an already stressful event more chaotic. The best protection against moving scams is to be an informed consumer, to ask questions and get everything in writing. For more consumer news you can trust and to check out a mover near you, visit www.bbb.org and AMSA’s website.
About the BBB System
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 116 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.