A piece of legislation passed during Maryland General Assembly in 2011 made some strides to protect consumers against unfair tactics that tarnished the moving industry in the past.
For years, professional movers, home buyers and renters were plagued by rogue companies who offer low estimates, then inflate prices and other charges before releasing furnishings, family heirlooms and personal items. The Maryland Household Goods Movers Act requires that all companies must provide a written estimate before services are tendered on all intrastate moves. The estimate must include a total cost, separately itemized services and costs, payment methods and times. Estimates must also note if they are binding or non-binding.
Not only does the legislation require a written estimate, it adds another key protection to thwart deceptive tactics. The final bill may no longer be doubled or tripled in excess of the original estimate and establishes a cap of 125%. Despite the new protections, consumers still share responsibility in final amount of the bill. For instance, if the family does not request packing services, but is not fully packed by the time of the scheduled move, those charges are not subject to the cap.
BBB offers a few tips for consumers planning a household move in Maryland:
Do your research: Make sure the company is reputable and reliable. Anyone can start a company and/or a website. Look at how long the company has been in business and what other consumers think about their services.
Explore the Web thoroughly, if customer testimonials reflect experiences with a company called by a different name this could be a sign of a poor cut and paste job. Make sure the Web site’s information is consistent.
Get three estimates: Doing the extra work will pay off in the end. Be sure to compare "apples to apples" when evaluating estimates and read the itemized services to double check that every estimates address similar services.
DO NOT waive your right to a written estimate: If you don't opt for a written estimate, you have no protection under the Act.
Look for consistency: A reputable business will be consistent on all levels of its operation from the paperwork to the employees. Does the estimator have a business card? Is his estimate sheet branded with the company logo and printed street address and phone number or is it handwritten or lacking a company masthead altogether? Examine employees’ uniforms. An unmarked moving truck could be an indicator of a rogue business. If you have any doubts, visit the company's office and check the moving trucks for logos and insignias that reflect the company's brand.
Consider buying full value protection. It may cost a few dollars more, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate headaches after your move. Purchasing full (replacement) value protection from your mover means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made to repair the item or to replace it at its current market value, regardless of age. It’s important to note, for example, that the required minimum coverage of 60 cents per pound would not cover the replacement cost of a flat panel TV if damaged in transit. The cost of full value protection must be included in the initial estimate you receive for an interstate move. FMCSA also requires interstate movers to offer arbitration to help settle disputed claims.
For additional information, visit www.mdmovers.org as well as, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at www.protectyourmove.gov and review BBB’s business reliability reports at www.bbb.org for information on movers and insight about customer experience and satisfaction.