Don't become a moving company victim

By Features Consumer Reports

A recent complaint New Jersey officials filed against a moving company illustrates why you must investigate movers carefully before deciding which one you’ll trust to handle you possessions.

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The complaint, filed in state superior court against Fair Lawn-based Moving Max and two of its principals, contains the same concerns we’ve seen moving company customers express many times before. Among them is the alleged use of bait and switch tactics in which a mover provides a low-ball estimate and then later threatens to hold onto the customer’s possessions unless additional payment is made.

In the complaint, the state said Moving Max initially quotes prices ranging from $225 to $921 but inflated the amounts to $500 to $1,665 once the move was completed.

“When shocked customers protested these amounts, the defendants allegedly threatened to drive off and retain the consumers' personal belongings until payment was made by cash or money order,” the state said in announcing the complaint, which was filed by the state attorney general's office and Division of Consumer Affairs

The state said Moving Max based the additional charges on carrying furniture on stairs, travel times, the use of packing tape and blankets that the state said were unnecessary or actually used, and an “EPA” fee that was not included in the company’s filed tariffs, as required.

The complaint also accused the company of failing to conduct premove inspections and provide written estimates, formal contracts, and a state-mandated moving brochure. In addition, the state accused Moving Max of intentionally concealing contract forms so that customers could not adequately read them before signing.

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The state said it had received 15 complaints against the company, involving an estimated $12,772 in overcharges.

The company has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau, in part for failing to respond to seven consumer complaints.

When we tried to reach the company, the listed number was out of service. Perhaps that's a good sign for consumers. 

For more information, read "Protect Yourself From Moving Scams."

What to do

Complaints against moving companies are all too common. Many involve unlicensed, rogue movers that prey on consumers who don’t know how to check out moving companies and don't understand their rights under state and federal laws.

Here is how you can protect yourself.

  • Get references. Check with friends, family, and/or reliable real estate agents.
  • Get multiple estimates. Obtain estimates from at least three companies.
  • Verify licensing. Interstate movers are licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which offers additional information on how to screen companies. The site also has a list of state regulators who oversee in-state movers.
  • Check for complaints. The federal website and some state regulatory sites list complaints against movers. Also check the Better Business Bureau, and search with the company’s name to find reviews and complaints on online forums and complaint websites.
  • Know your rights. The federal government and some states require movers to provide booklets explaining your rights. Read the free brochure “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move.” Although it doesn’t apply to in-state movers, this brochure is a must-read for all. Also check the consumer information on the American Moving & Storage Association’s website.
  • Complain. If a mover violates the law, file a complaint with the state or federal licensing agency and the Better Business Bureau. If a mover won’t release your possessions in an illegal attempt to up the amount you owe, call the police.

—Anthony Giorgianni

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