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Moving is never easy, no matter the distance you are traveling. That is why many people hire moving companies to make their moves easier. However, what do you do when a moving company damages your personal belongings, overcharges you, or even loses your stuff during a move? Consider filing a complaint against the moving company with a state or federal agency. There are several federal and state agencies as well as other types of organizations that handle complaints against a moving company. Below we have included several of these organizations and agencies and how to file a complaint against a moving company with each one.
Common Reasons to File a Complaint Against a Moving Company
Here are some of the most common reasons people file a complaint against moving companies:
A moving company delivered your belongings late or completely missed the contracted date to deliver your belongings.
A moving company damaged your personal belongings while transporting them.
A moving company provided you with a quote but the quote includes hidden fees.
A moving company deliberately stretched out the time of your move to increase hourly charges.
A moving company overcharged you on the date of delivery.
Steps to Take Before Filing a Complaint Against a Moving Company
Here are some steps you may want to take before you file a complaint against a moving company:
Collect all evidence against the moving company.
Review your contract.
Contact the moving company.
We will review each one of the three steps below.
Step 1: Collect All Evidence Against the Moving Company
The moment you run into an issue with a moving company start collecting all evidence you can use to file a complaint or sue in small claims court in the future.
If your dispute against a moving company concerns a contract, a quote, fees, or your damaged belongings, here is a sample checklist of the evidence you should consider keeping track of:
Any contract or written agreement with the moving company.
Communications with the moving company or their office.
Your moving company’s name, address, and phone number
Pictures of the move and your belongings (before and after pick up).
A detailed description of your belongings if they are missing.
Pickup and delivery addresses. This will be especially important if you were overcharged for a move that you can prove should only have taken 2 hours.
Documents that the moving company gave you.
Any quotes you received from the moving company.
Declarations from witnesses, the moving company, or any other relevant individuals.
People Clerk can help you organize your evidence and sue a moving company in small claims court.
Step 2: Review Your Contract with the Moving Company
We always recommend that you review any documents the moving company sent you or that you signed. There may be sections of the contract that discuss the moving company’s liability or responsibility in the event your belongings are damaged or lost during a move or if you have been overcharged.
Keep in mind that the judge will be the ultimate decider of whether something in the contract is fair or enforceable.
Step 3: Contact the Moving Company
Before you file a complaint with the moving company consider contacting a representative of the moving company to see if your problem can be resolved. The moving company probably does not want to develop a bad reputation and so oftentimes the company will apologize and take steps to resolve your concerns. The moving company may even have a formal claim or complaint process in place for your specific situation.
This is not always the case. In the event the moving company is not able or unwilling to assist you it may be time to file a formal complaint with one of the organizations listed below.
You can also consider sending a demand letter to the moving company.
File a Complaint Against a Moving Company With the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
In the case of a state-to-state move (interstate), you can file a complaint with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and they hear complaints over the phone or you can file online. Depending on the case, the agency may take enforcement action against the mover.
Here is how to file a complaint against a moving company with the FMCSA:
Online by using the FMCSA complaint tool.
By phone at: (1-800-368-7238)
Interstate movers must be registered with the federal government and have a U.S. DOT number. To confirm that the moving company you are using is registered with the DOT search FMCSA’s mover database. If you find the movers you are looking for in the database you will be able to find information on their headquarters, contact information, registration status, and complaint history.
File a Complaint Against a Moving Company With a State Agency
Some states have government agencies that regulate movers and moving companies. These agencies will handle complaints against moving companies and allow you to search for licensed movers. Below we have included examples of state agencies that handle complaints against moving companies in California and New York.
File a Complaint against a Moving Company With the California Bureau of Household Goods and Services
In California, the Bureau of Household Goods and Services (BHGS) protects consumers against moves within the state. The BHGS is the agency that handles complaints against moving companies as well as allows consumers to look up the license for intrastate movers.
To look up a license with the BHGS use the online search tool available on the California Public Utilities Commission website to look up the moving company you used.
To file a consumer complaint against a California moving company online fill out the Moving Questionnaire/Complaint form. You can also download and print this form and mail it to the address at the top of the form.
The BHGS also provides useful tips for consumers hiring moving companies.
File a Complaint Against a Moving Company With the New York State Department of Transportation
In New York, you can file a complaint against a mover who operates wholly within New York with the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). The NYSDOT also grants licenses to moving companies that operate within New York State.
If you used a New York moving company and they lost or damaged your personal belongings, NYSDOT asks that you notify your mover in writing as soon as possible. The moving company is required to respond to the written claim within 30 days and resolve the claim in writing within 120 days.
The NYSDOT does not handle loss or damage claims because they regard this as a civil matter that must be resolved in a court of law (like a small claims court).
If you obtain a judgment from a court, NYSDOT requires that the moving company pay the judgment within 60 days. If you do not receive payment, NYSDOT will assist you in collecting your judgment.
NYSDOT will handle other complaints against moving companies, for example, breach of contract issues. To file a complaint against a moving company, download the Consumer Complaint Form. Mail the form and all copies of paperwork and correspondence between you and the moving company to the mailing address below.
New York State Department of Transportation
Office of Safety and Security Services
50 Wolf Road, POD 53
Albany, New York 12232
If you have any questions about your complaint against a moving company contact NYSDOT by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 1(518) 457-6512.
File a Complaint Against a Moving Company With the BBB
The Better Business Bureau (BBB), is a nonprofit that serves as an intermediary between businesses and consumers. The Better Business Bureau handles consumer complaints against all types of businesses including moving companies.
What types of complaints against moving companies does the BBB handle?
The BBB handles several different types of moving scams and complaints every year. This includes cases where you pay a deposit on a quote and the movers never show up. In other cases, the moving company shows up and picks up all your belonging but either your belongings are simply gone or the company requires you to pay an additional fee to have them delivered, holding the possessions hostage.
In any of these cases, you may file a complaint with the BBB online. File a BBB complaint online using the link here.
The BBB also allows consumers to post a review about their experience with a moving company. If you would like to share your experience with (as well as file a complaint) a moving company use the link here.
File a Complaint Against a Moving Company With American Trucking Associations
Some moving companies are members of American Trucking Associations (which merged with the American Moving and Storage Association and other moving associations).
American Trucking Associations (“ATA”) is a national trade association for movers in America. ATA is not a government organization and moving companies can voluntarily become ATA members if they choose. If the moving company you used is a member of ATA you have the option of filing a claim for arbitration.
What is arbitration?
Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution like the court. Like going to court, in an arbitration, your dispute is decided by a neutral third party, either one arbitrator or a group of arbitrators. Generally, after the arbitrator makes a decision, this decision is final and you don’t need to go to court to have a judge decide your dispute again
However, unlike going to court, arbitration is private. This means that whatever happens at the arbitration, the decision won’t be in court records for others to find out about the moving company’s wrongdoings.
Here is how to check if a moving company is a member of ATA:
Call ATA at (703)-683-7410.
Email ATA at [email protected].
Here is how to file a complaint against a moving company with the ATA:
File online using the General Complaint Form. Do not use this form if you have a dispute with your mover about items that were lost or damaged during your move, or additional charges billed to you by your mover after your shipment was delivered.
Use the Arbitration Request Form for all other issues including damaged or lost items or billing disputes.
Sue a Moving Company in Small Claims Court
If you have filed a complaint against a moving company but your complaint was not resolved consider filing a small claims lawsuit against a moving company. Small claims courts were intended to be the “People’s Court”. Small claims courts are affordable, user-friendly, and have informal and simplified court procedures. Also, small claims courts handle a variety of issues that may relate to your dispute with a moving company including property damage or breach of contract.
Legal Educator @ People Clerk. Claudia holds a J.D. degree and is a certified mediator in New York and Florida. She has participated in dozens of small claims mediations in New York City courts.