As we approach the busiest time of the year for changing residences, Better Business Bureau and the American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA) are urging consumers to exercise extreme caution when selecting a mover. Following a few simple rules when selecting one will go a long way toward protecting yourself from being victimized by common moving industry scams.
Every year BBB and AMSA receive thousands of complaints from consumers who have fallen prey to dishonest and often unlicensed moving companies.
"Anyone can claim to be a mover, so checking a mover's credentials is critical," according to Connecticut Better Business President, Paulette Scarpetti. "Consumers should know about their rights and options, and most important, do their homework before putting their precious belongings in the hands of a stranger.”
More than 7,300 consumers nationwide filed complaints with BBB against moving companies in 2011. In a too-frequent, worst-case scenario, the moving company holds the customer's belongings “hostage” and requires potentially thousands of dollars to unload the van.
BBB and AMSA offer the following checklist for finding a trustworthy moving company:
Research the company thoroughly - While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the federal government and assigned a motor carrier number you can verify on FMCSA’s website, http://www.protectyourmove.gov. Also check the company's rating at http://www.ct.bbb.org.
Get at least three written in-home estimates – Be wary of price quotes online or over the phone. Keep in mind that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer, which can end up costing you more money than you expected to spend.
Know your rights - Research your rights as a consumer with either FMCSA for interstate moves or the state in which you reside for moves within that state. Also, enlist the help of BBB or local law enforcement if a moving company fails to live up to its promises or threatens to hold your belongings in exchange for higher fees. FMCSA requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.
Consider getting full value protection - It’s important to note that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost, for example, of a flat panel TV if damaged in transit. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate potential headaches after your move. Investing in full (replacement)
One caveat: some of your valuables may be irreplaceable, hence, it might be difficult to assign a dollar value in terms of what they are worth to you if they go missing or are damaged beyond repair during the move. Consider transporting these kinds of items yourself if possible.
Draw up a manifest and verify contents upon delivery – A label and description on the outside of each box will tell you what’s inside and where it is supposed to go. However, Connecticut BBB recommends verifying the contents of each box upon arrival to make sure no items have gone missing or were damaged. Proper documentation and organization are essential when filing an insurance claim or a complaint to BBB.
For more consumer news you can trust and to check out a mover near you, visit http://www.bbb.org and AMSA’s website at http://www.moving.org.
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Founded in 1928, Connecticut BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. For more advice on finding companies and businesses, start your search with trust at www.bbb.org.