Moving and Your Consumer Rights

Moving and Your Consumer Rights

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It’s not a perfect world, so people sometimes experience problems when use moving companies. These range from simple misunderstandings that can be easily resolved to having possessions held ransom by rogue movers that raise prices significantly once their trucks are loaded. Some of these problems can be avoided by doing good advance research to make sure the right company is chosen, but even the most cautious people can occasionally run into problems. That’s why the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provides consumer rights and responsibilities documentation that makes your options clear, both before your move and in the event of a complaint. You can find this information on the FMCSA’s Protect Your Move page, along with tips on recognizing rogue movers, a search feature that helps you track down moving company complaint histories, a mechanism for making complaints and many other helpful resources.

All your consumer protection rights are detailed on the FMCSA site, but here are some of the more important aspects:

  • Movers must give you written, not verbal, moving estimates.
  • If you’re given a binding estimate, you don’t have to pay more than 100% of the stated amount, no matter what the moving company representative says. If you receive a non-binding estimate, you only have to pay 110% of the stated fee. It’s a violation of federal regulations if a company asks for more than either of these amounts and won’t release your possessions until you pay.
  • It’s your right to be present each time your possessions are weighed. You may also request that they be reweighed.
  • You must be offered access to a dispute settlement program as a means to resolve any loss or damage claims.

You also have responsibilities when you hire a mover:

  • You should get estimates from at least three long distance movers before making a decision. Don’t disclose information about competitor pricing to any of them, because it can affect the estimates.
  • Determine whether the person giving you the estimate is a moving broker or an actual moving company representative. A broker does not assume responsibility for, and is not authorized to transport, your household goods. Brokers do not have moving trucks or professional movers.
  • You must ensure that any estimate or contract you sign is as complete as possible. This means it should contain all your shipment information, except the actual weight and any other details that can’t be included until moving day.
  • Make sure you understand what kind of loss coverage the moving company provides and that they have fully explained the difference between valuation coverage and actual insurance.

Being aware of both your rights and responsibilities when you hire a moving company can make a big difference in the outcome of your move, so take the time to be proactive. You’ll be glad you did.

About Rick Doney

Rick Doney is a co-founder of Consumer Authority and Lifetime Entrepreneur. Expert on real estate, home improvement and other topics.