California Consumer Fraud Alert: Watch Out for Unpermitted Household Movers Conducting Business. Check Before You Hire and Know What’s on Your Moving Contract Agreement.
The California Department of Consumer Affairs and its Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS) are warning consumers about malicious and deceptive business practices by unpermitted moving companies and unscrupulous household moving brokers.
BHGS wants consumers to be aware all moving companies transporting used household goods in the State of California must hold a valid Household Mover’s Permit issued by BHGS. CHECK FIRST BEFORE YOU HIRE:
Consumers Can Protect Themselves and Know their Rights!
A moving company must provide a “not-to-exceed” price for all household moves. This is the maximum amount you can be charged unless you request additional services, and those changes are detailed in a “Change Order for Services.” A change order cannot be used simply because a mover underestimated costs. Pay close attention to these documents because if a fee dispute arises, the moving company may demand you pay the cost quoted on these documents before releasing your goods.
Here are some moving tips to avoid getting scammed by a deceptive moving company.
- Make your plans, do your research, and check a mover’s permit well in advance of your move.
- Hire a licensed, BHGS permitted moving company that you have researched and vetted with various sources. Online reviews and postings are a great way to identify movers with an alarming pattern of problems you want to avoid.
- Check the permit status of all movers you are considering using to ensure they are authorized to operate. It’s easy to check and the information is invaluable.
- BHGS (moves coming or going out of California)
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (if traveling across state lines)
- When possible, visit the mover’s place of business in person.
- For moves within California, a moving company may provide you with a written estimate only after it has conducted a visual inspection of the items you need moved. Verbal estimates, estimates given over the internet, or estimates given without a visual inspection are illegal and may not be enforceable.
- Be aware that moving brokers who are not movers are required by Federal law to identify themselves as brokers. Moving brokers arrange moving services to be provided by other companies, which is different than speaking directly with a moving service company conducting the move. Again, they must identify themselves as brokers. It’s the law.
- A red flag: If a broker or moving company asks for a deposit upfront via cash or mobile money transfer apps, this could be an indication you need to ask more questions. Get clarification about whether you are speaking to a broker or mover, make sure you know who is taking possession of your belongings, and ask for documentation to show what services you are getting for what you are paying.
- Never allow a mover to make a verbal agreement with you. Always obtain a contract and read through it carefully before signing it.
- Do not allow a mover to place any of your items onto the truck until they give you the contract. Make sure nothing has changed according to what you agreed and that the “not-to-exceed” price is on the contract before you sign it.
- If you change the terms of service by adding items to be moved or changing moving dates after the contract has been signed, your final cost may change, and a Change of Order for Services must be completed.
- If your mover is traveling across state lines, a good resource to check permit status and get information about consumer rights is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
If you discover a mover is operating without a valid permit, or have any other issues with a mover, you can file a complaint form online at www.bhgs.dca.ca.gov or by calling (916) 999-2041.
For more information about tips to protect yourself during a move, visit the BHGS household movers’ information page at https://bhgs.dca.ca.gov/consumers/movers.shtml.
BHGS Enforcement is working with its community partners, such as Napa and Sacramento County District Attorney’s Offices, to provide aggressive enforcement and consumer protection against deceptive moving service practices.
Caption: Don’t be the victim of mover fraud or your belongings could end up hidden in a storage facility like this and never delivered to your new residence.
Caption: Do the research so you know who’s actually conducting your move.