How to File a Complaint Against Movers

Before you file a complaint against a moving company, gather all of the evidence you have of wrongdoing by the mover. We break down the details in this post.

Molly Henderson

Molly has been writing about the moving industry for more than 10 years and knows exactly what makes a mover great.

 ·  6 min

Most moves are completed without any trouble at all. You research types of moving companies, budget your move, and arrive at your destination ready to start your new life.

Sadly, all it takes is one wrong move to tarnish your faith in the industry altogether.

When you experience a terrible move, your first instinct might be to focus on damage control so you can put the whole miserable scenario behind you. Filing a complaint, however, is a vital part of keeping the industry effective for everyone else. You help ensure that incidents like this won’t happen quite as frequently. 

Protect your move with a proactive attitude. We’re going to teach you how to file a complaint against movers so you can potentially get your money back and keep the industry fair. 

How Do You Deal With a Bad Moving Company?

This is a common grievance these days. The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) received nearly 5,000 complaints about bad moving companies back in 2019, with a majority of them complaining about overpriced services.

Two major contributors to this phenomenon are a lack of knowledge on behalf of movers and malicious parties in the moving industry. 

Bad moving experiences that are the fault of the people moving usually look like:

  • Not being specific about the services they need
  • Skimming the contract
  • Not asking questions, especially before signing the bill of lading

Red flags by the moving company usually looks like:

  • Price gouging
  • Surprise fees not specified in the contract
  • Extremely slow service
  • Lost, damaged, or stolen belongings
  • An incompleted job (household goods not delivered to the new home by delivery date or packing left unfinished)

What you shouldn’t do when dealing with a bad moving company is:

  • Automatically assume maliciousness (genuine mistakes happen)
  • Get rid of a physical contract in a fit of anger (this is your first line of legal defense)
  • Wait for months before saying anything (consumer complaints have to be filed promptly)
  • Give up on the complaint process (you have more power than you realize!)

When Can You Sue a Moving Company?

Don’t delay this part. Your ability to file a complaint is time-locked, meaning waiting too long can put you out of pocket before you’ve had a fighting chance.

Your moving contract should have a clause outlining when you can file a moving complaint. If you’re thinking of hiring a moving company that doesn’t provide physical or digital contracts? Run! This is a common moving scam that will set you up for a lot of hurt, such as:

Price Gouging

This is a phenomenon in which a business will spike its prices for dubious purposes. While it’s common for moving companies to shift around an estimate as they learn about your unique move, there’s a limit. 

A good way to monitor price gouging is to follow these steps:

  • Ask family, friends, or co-workers about their experience working with the moving company you’re thinking of hiring
  • Research common price points for similar moves to yours (bedroom size, specific belongings, season, etc)
  • Read recent, verified customer reviews

Rogue Movers

There are over 7,000 moving companies operating in the United States. With so many options, it’s easy for rogue movers to slip through the cracks and take advantage of unsuspecting parties.

Rogue movers are moving businesses that aren’t verified by the FMCSA, seeking out easy jobs where they can do the least amount of work possible for a big check. Working with a rogue mover puts you at high risk for paying astronomically large prices, property damage, and even having your things stolen. 

Not all rogue movers resort to an incomplete job, either. Many are perfectly happy to see the job through to the end…but will take a long time to do so under an hourly fee, thus increasing the cost. They might deliver your belongings, then surprise you with a hidden fee and hold your belongings hostage until you pay. 

Rogue movers tend to target movers who are:

  • Desperate and moving at the last second
  • Inexperienced with the moving industry
  • Unfamiliar with the function of a moving contract

Fortunately, it’s very easy to avoid rogue movers with a little research on your part. Any reputable moving company should, at the very least, have:

  • A USDOT and/or MC number under the FMCSA database, which you can check here. You can also check their complaint database to see how many complaints they received. 
  • A verified address and (consistent) legal business name
  • Overall positive customer reviews on Yelp, Better Business Bureau, or Trip Advisor
  • A physical or digital contract
  • A helpful and patient attitude, even during emergency moves

What Are the Penalties for Moving Violations?

It’s not in a moving company’s best interest to fumble the job. A bad experience has a ripple effect, resulting in bad reviews, visible online complaints and damaged trust for future clients.

A moving violation penalty, depending on the severity, can look like:

  • Going to court and possibly paying the aggrieved customer for damages
  • Receiving poor online reviews on popular customer-focused sites like BBB or Yelp
  • Being contacted by the FMCSA and receiving a strike on their public record

What Should I Do if My Moving Company is Late?

It’s nerve-wracking when your move isn’t on time. Remember that a late moving job isn’t automatically malicious. 

Common reasons your moving company might be late include:

  • Traffic jams
  • A trucking accident
  • Workers becoming sick or quitting 

A moving company that is late for non-malicious reasons will be quick to let you know of any problems. Likewise, don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. If you fear your moving company is late because they want to price gouge, however…continue reading.

What Are the Steps for Filing a Complaint?

You need to contact the FMCSA with your complaints, as they’re the operating authority for moving businesses in the United States. Filing a complaint sounds like a major pain, but it’s helpful for both you and the people who come after you.

You’ll need to fill out a complaint form, which gathers up all the basics so you can move forward with a possible arbitration program or compensation package. 

Your first steps involve:

  • Gathering up essential information (names, addresses, telephone numbers)
  • Finding the US Department of Transportation and/or MC numbers
  • Writing down your concerns (the more specific, the better)

Some moving companies are registered with the American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) which also lets consumers voice their concerns about professional movers. 

Also make sure you have everything you need to make your case against the company including photos, inventory lists, valuation of damaged items, and know your rights as a consumer. 

How Do I Get a Moving Company to Honor Their Contract?

No legal dispute can hold water without proof. The more accurate your paper trail, the more likely you’ll receive support for your claim.

Your next step is to make sure you still have the contract. This can be physical or digital. Only present the signed version.

After you find your moving contract, make sure you have the receipt of the completed (or incompleted) job. This way you can compare and contrast inconsistent prices or missing services.

The last and least enjoyable step is to contact the company and let them know you’re filing a formal complaint. This is vital for leaving a paper trail to show you’re serious. In favor of a peaceful resolution, you may also receive compensation then and there, as moving companies rely on positive word-of-mouth to gain more business.

If you don’t receive a peaceful resolution from a formal complaint to the company, your next step is to contact the FMCSA. 

How Can I Get a Moving Company to Pay For Damages?

This part is a little tricky. Your moving company might dispute the claims if they feel the information they’re presented with is inaccurate or late. 

Your best bet, as always, is your contract. Is there a clause that specifies financial compensation for damages or incomplete service? Likewise, do you have a strong paper trail showing you’ve been wronged?

The FMCSA has a straightforward filing process: you can call their hotline at (888) 368-7238 Monday through Friday. They will post any and all customer grievances to the moving company’s public record (again, not in the company’s best interests). Once the FMCSA conducts an investigation into your case, you’ll be able to move forward with possible arbitration. 

Significant grievances that can see financial compensation include:

  • Irrefutable evidence of price gouging 
  • Violating a binding estimate
  • Damaged or stolen belongings 
  • Mishandling hazardous materials
  • Failing to comply with coronavirus safety guidelines (such as mask wearing)

It’s wise for a lawyer to speak for you in small claims court, though keep in mind you could end up losing more money in the process. If you lost $100 or $200 to damaged furniture, but need to hire a lawyer for $500…it might be best to cut your losses. 

Learning how to file a complaint against movers is often cathartic. While you’re justified in feeling frustrated, keep in mind peaceful resolutions are always possible.

More often than not, mistakes made by your moving company are just that. Simple mistakes. Likewise, you might be responsible for not properly reading your contract or failing to specify which services you need. 

If you suspect you’ve been financially wronged, however, then it’s time to take action as quickly as possible.

Molly Henderson

Molly has been writing about the moving industry for more than 10 years and knows exactly what makes a mover great.

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