For decades, regulators have worked to stay ahead of rogue movers, and another wave of regulatory language is designed to pressure fraudulent moving companies further.
The new changes, proposed by a working group of industry experts and approved by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA), will make fraud more difficult for rogue movers to pull off. The new changes will streamline paperwork for moving professionals and provide customers with wider protections.
How Big is the Rogue Mover Problem?
Rogue movers have been an issue for the industry for decades. Posing as a legitimate moving company, rogue movers typically provide over-the-phone or e-mail estimates, promise low fees, pack the customer’s belongings on a moving truck and then demand a larger payment than what was initially agreed on. In effect, rogue movers hold their customers’ belongings “hostage” until the customer pays up. In many cases, the belongings are never returned, which means a rogue mover can steal everything a family owns without being heard from again.
This problem has grown in prevalence over the years. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), customers filed 4,274 complaints against moving companies in 2019. More than half of these complaints regarded overcharging – a standard rogue mover maneuver. The BBB believes that only 10 percent of moving fraud victims report their experiences to the BBB, which suggests the problem is far larger.
What are the FMCSA’s Law Changes and How Will They Help Solve the Rogue Mover Problem?
Several new regulations and recommendations are being discussed and will likely go into effect soon. Among the new regulations are:
- New bill of lading procedures – The bill of lading is the most important piece of documentation associated with a move. It provides a detailed account of what’s being moved, where those items are being moved, and any other conditions relevant to the job.
Traditionally, the bill of lading is signed by the mover and the client after everything is loaded. However, this puts consumers in a difficult position if they do not agree with what’s described on the bill of lading. Once everything is loaded, the consumer loses their leverage.
In response to this, the FMCSA is revising bill of lading procedures. Now, the mover must provide the bill of lading no later than three days prior to the move. The mover and client must both sign the document at this time. Once signed, the client has three days to decide whether they want to go forward with the move. If they wish, they may rescind (cancel) the move without any penalty.
With these new bill of lading procedures in place, consumers can back out of a move if they do not approve of what’s on the paperwork.
- No order of service required – The order for service has long been a supporting piece of documentation, containing the estimated cost of the move, the move’s schedule, and any additional services that have been requested with moving services.
With the new changes, everything that was once included on the order of service is now required on the bill of lading. This is one less piece of paperwork for professionals and consumers to keep track of.
- Surveys required with every move – Rogue movers operate by providing false estimates to their clients. They do this by skipping the survey process and providing a quote over the phone or through e-mail.
The FMCSA now requires professional movers to perform a site survey before providing an estimate. This is the case regardless of how far away the job is from the professional mover. The only exception to this is if the customer opts out of an estimate through written confirmation.
With required site surveys, consumers know that they are getting a properly developed estimate and not a quote designed for bait-and-switch purposes.
- Virtual surveys instead of physical ones – The proposed changes will allow moving professionals to provide a virtual survey instead of a physical survey. The customer decides which they prefer, and if a virtual survey is the choice, the moving company must perform the survey on live video, with both the customer and moving company representative available. Any survey without a video component will be insufficient for surveying purposes.
- Movers are required to provide information on customer rights – With every customer, the mover must provide a paper copy of (or a web link to) required consumer-related documentation. This includes Ready to Move? and Your Rights and Responsibility When You Move, both of which detail the customer’s protections during the moving process.
To confirm that the customer has received this documentation, the customer must sign a receipt prior to the move.
- No more estimate revisions – Under the FMCSA’s new guidance, moving professionals are not allowed to make revisions to existing moving estimates. Instead, a new binding or nonbinding estimate will be required when the client provides additional goods for moving. While a new estimate means a new bill of lading, this does not restart the three-day clock associated with bill of lading approval.
The Proposed Law Changes Will Make Moving Safer for Everyone
The new laws and regulations will give consumers more protection during the moving process, even allowing them to back out of a transaction that appears fraudulent. This is good for consumers and for reputable moving professionals, who also benefit from reduced paperwork and better practices that boost the industry as a whole.