Moving is stressful enough without having to tangle with an unethical mover. BBB published a release in June about the risk to consumers of hiring unlicensed movers who likely don’t have insurance and won’t reimburse for damaged property. Another risk to consumers is something called a hostage move, where the moving company picks up the household goods and keeps them in order to jack up the price.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently busted five moving companies for engaging in hostage moves. The companies Allegiant Van Lines, Inc. of Florida (USDOT No. 1712687); Northern Van Lines, Inc. (USDOT No. 1147457); Northeastern Vanlines, Inc. of Florida (USDOT No. 1212003); United West Moving and Storage, Inc. of South Carolina (USDOT No. 1827150); and Direct Movers, Inc. of Maryland (USDOT No. 1666092).
The FMCSA Moving Fraud Task Force began investigating Allegiant Van Lines, Inc. after receiving numerous consumer complaints that the company illegally held possessions hostage during moves. The company has been suspended from operating for at least one year and issued fines of over $88,000 for safety and commercial violations.
The FMCSA discovered Allegiant’s owner also operated Northern Van Lines, Inc. and Northeastern Vanlines, Inc. of Florida, and United West Moving and Storage, Inc. of South Carolina. The National Consumer Complaint Database has received more than 100 complaints against the three related companies. They were fined over $31,000 total and have been suspended from operating for at least a year.
The FMCSA also shut down Maryland-based Direct Movers, Inc. and deactivated their DOT number after they failed to comply with a demand for records involving a shipment being held hostage.
Consumers can report unsafe and unlawful moving companies by calling FMCSA’s nationwide complaint hotline at 1-888-368-7238 (1-888 DOT-SAFT) or by visiting the database at http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Consumers can visit www.protectyourmove.gov to find out more about the “red flags” of moving fraud.
Before hiring a moving company, BBB recommends you take the following steps:
- Check with BBB. Check the company’s BBB Business Review for its rating, complaint history and other information.
- Search Truck Stop. For in-state moves, companies must be licensed with the Texas DMV. Consumers can search Truck Stop by the name of the company, city they live in, zip code or registration number. The registration number is provided to the moving company when it obtains its license. Ask any company you are considering for this registration number and check it in the database.
- Check with the U.S. DOT. If moving to another state, check with US DOT to view the company’s complaint history and safety record.
- Check all the paperwork. In addition to requiring companies to be licensed, Texas state law requires movers to provide consumers with the following:
- A proposal containing a guaranteed price or a “not to exceed” estimate.
- Written contracts before the move (detailing promised services, insurance coverage and price) and after the move (containing an itemized list of charges as well as the method used to calculate the charges.)
- Standard liability of 60 cents per pound per item and an option to purchase insurance over and above this minimum.
- A brochure that outlines consumer rights under Texas law