Better Business Bureau investigation: Beware of unlicensed movers

Consumers should check licensing before hiring a moving companyCouple Moving Boxes 150x150 Better Business Bureau investigation: Beware of unlicensed movers

Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about unlicensed movers operating in the Central Texas area.

When a Texas moving company is unlicensed, not only is it operating illegally, but it may not have insurance. That can leave a consumer with no place to turn for items that may be lost or damaged.

BBB researched local moving companies that had at least one unanswered or unresolved complaint as of April 23, 2013 and then attempted to verify licensing with state and national databases.

The following moving companies showed non-existent or revoked licenses in the Texas Department of Motor Vehicle’s Truck Stop, a searchable database of licensed moving companies, as of June 26, 2013. BBB contacted each of these companies about their licenses, but received either no response or a response that did not address BBB’s concerns.

Austin area

At least four Austin area moving companies: ABA Moving in Pflugerville, Austin’s Bargain Movers in Round Rock, Movers Are Us and USA Relocation Group (Not to be confused with Maryland-based USA Relocation, Inc.)

Furthermore, BBB was unable to determine if ABA Moving, Austin’s Bargain Movers or Movers are Us are still in business.

Corpus Christi area

At least two Corpus Christi-area moving companies: Bargain Movers and Last Minute Movers.

San Antonio area

At least five San Antonio-area moving companies: Assets Rescue Movers & DeliveriesB&B MoversBest Price Movers LLC (also known as Move Pros), Dependable Moving andTexas Bluebonnet Movers.

Furthermore, BBB was unable to determine if Assets Rescue Movers & Deliveries or B&B Movers are still in business.

Waco area

At least one Waco-area moving company: Guerrero Bros Co. in Waco (not to be confused with Guerra Brothers Moving Service).

Moving company license requirement

If a mover transports household goods for hire, the company must register with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and obtain a TxDMV number. A “labor only” mover who loads and unloads, but does not transport the goods, therefore does not require a TxDMV license. Moving companies that cross state lines are also regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Under Texas Transportation Code 643.253, movers operating without a license face penalties that increase in severity based on the number of violations. The first offense is a Class C misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $500 and possible jail time; the second offense is a Class B misdemeanor, with a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail; a third offense is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail.

Although consumers can ask for higher levels of coverage, Texas law mandates that movers have a minimum amount of insurance for the items they move. In order to get a TxDMV license and keep it active, a household goods carrier must have cargo insurance of at least $5,000 for loss or damage to total cargo carried on any one motor vehicle.

The license also requires movers to certify that they are in compliance with federal drug testing requirements. If a moving company employee tests positive for a controlled substance, the result must be reported to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

BBB Moving company complaints

BBB received more than 7,700 complaints nationally against moving companies in 2012. Most complaints allege lost or damaged property. Consumers also turned to BBB alleging movers did not show up on time, did not honor agreed upon fee arrangements, charged for time they did not work or were rude and hostile toward their clients.

Some consumers have even alleged that movers held their possessions hostage, demanding more money than originally agreed upon. Federal law bans this practice for interstate moves.

Before hiring a moving company, 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

To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.

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About Charles Wood

Charles Wood is an investigator with the Austin Better Business Bureau. He joined BBB after more than 22 years as a newspaper journalist.