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How To File a Complaint Against a Moving Company (2024 Guide)

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Crumbled moving boxes and broken kitchenware on the floor of a house.

Default Author Icon Written by Shane Sentelle Updated 05/02/2024

Moving day can be stressful enough without a shady moving company adding to the chaos. Damaged belongings, hidden fees, or unexpected delays can leave you feeling frustrated and helpless—but you do have options.

If you’ve fallen victim to incompetent or dishonest movers, you can seek justice by filing a formal complaint. We’ll guide you through the whole process, from gathering documentation to filing a claim for damages. We’ll also explain how to escalate the situation effectively and when to hire an attorney.

When to File a Complaint Against a Moving Company

Not every moving day mishap warrants a formal complaint. Minor delays can happen due to factors outside the movers’ control. Other hiccups could be the result of a simple misunderstanding or an innocent mistake. However, when you are dealing with extreme negligence or fraud, filing a formal complaint may be your best course of action. Here are some examples:

  • Lost belongings: If your items are significantly damaged or go missing during the move, the first step is to file a moving damage claim. However, you may need to file a formal complaint if the company disputes your claim and refuses to compensate you fairly.
  • Unexpected fees: Some movers may quote you a low price initially to get your business, then surprise you with hidden fees and a much higher final bill. These actions might violate both your contract and consumer protection laws, justifying a formal complaint.
  • Unreasonable delays: Some delays are understandable, but reputable companies will keep you informed and offer apologies or compensation when appropriate. Missing the pickup or delivery dates by a significant margin without explanation or solution is grounds for a complaint.
  • Hostage situation: It’s illegal for movers to hold your belongings and demand additional payment beyond the agreed-upon price. Though you might you have no choice but to pay, you shouldn’t play along. Rather than trying to ransom your belongings, you should report this behavior immediately.
  • Suspected fraud: If you believe the company misrepresented itself, provided false documentation, or has a pattern of deceptive practices, a complaint can trigger further investigation. Ultimately, this can provide justice for you and protection for other consumers.

Before Filing a Moving Complaint

Filing a formal complaint takes preparation. Gathering the right documentation and attempting to resolve the issue directly with the moving company strengthens your claim and increases your chances of a successful outcome. Here’s what to do before taking official action:

Review Your Rights

Understand your rights as a consumer. Review the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) booklet “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” if you moved between two states. Your mover should have provided you with a copy.

Research the local and state regulations that govern moving companies if your move was within a single state. Many state consumer protection agencies offer resources and guidance related to the moving industry.

Gather Documentation

Solid documentation makes your complaint more credible and difficult to dismiss. It helps establish a timeline of events and shows that you were diligent in trying to resolve the problem. Gather the following pieces of evidence:

  • Bill of lading
  • Correspondence
  • Detailed notes
  • Moving estimate
  • Moving contract
  • Moving inventory
  • Photographs
  • Receipts

Be prepared to supply your own contact information, the origin and destination of your shipment, the moving company’s contact information, and the moving company’s United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number.

Attempt a Direct Resolution

Contact your moving company by phone or email before filing a complaint or contacting an attorney. Reputable moving companies will often resolve issues amicably if you contact them directly. Here are a few tips:

  • Stay calm. Connect with your moving company’s customer service department and express your concerns calmly and clearly. A conversation is likelier to be productive and amount to a solution if you keep your composure.
  • Be specific. Outline your issues in detail and propose a solution. Explain what the company can do to make things right, such as a partial refund or compensation for damages.
  • Provide evidence. Support your claims with concrete proof, such as photographs of damaged items, copies of correspondence, or receipts that verify your claims.
  • Document everything. Keep detailed notes of every phone call, email, fax, text, online chat, in-person meeting, letter, and form submission you’ve exchanged. List the date, time, who you spoke with, and what was discussed to create a clear, chronological record of events.
  • Be patient. Give the company five to seven days to address your concerns. If you haven’t reached a solution or made significant progress by then, it’s time to consider escalating your complaint.

How to File a Formal Complaint Against a Moving Company

Consumers have access to several federal, state, and industry authorities that oversee the moving industry. You can also use online reviews and social media platforms as tools to escalate your complaint. 

Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) will address any complaint you file through its website. The BBB encourages resolution and tracks the response of the company you’ve cited, which can be a valuable tool in getting your issues acknowledged or addressed.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates interstate moving companies. You can file an online complaint with the FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database or call the company at 1-888-368-7238 if your issue involves a long-distance or cross-country move

United States Department of Transportation

The United States Department of Transportation directs consumers to report household goods moving fraud to the FMCSA. You can also file a complaint directly with the Office of the Inspector General by emailing hotline@oig.dot.gov, calling 1-800-424-9071, or using the OIG Hotline Complaint Form

American Moving and Storage Association

The American Moving and Storage Association (AMSA) offers an arbitration program to help its members resolve disputes. If the company you hired belongs to AMSA, you can fill out an arbitration request form and return it to the American Trucking Association by mail, email, or fax.

State Consumer Protection

Each state in the United States has a consumer protection office that deals with complaints against businesses, including local moving companies. These offices can provide guidance on your rights as a consumer and assist with resolving disputes.

State Attorney General’s Office

The attorney general’s office in your state can assist you with filing complaints against businesses, including moving companies. The office may also offer legal advice or intervene directly in cases that involve violation of state laws.

Online Reviews and Social Media

Posting online reviews on platforms such as Yelp and Google can be a powerful way to share your experience. Detailed, honest reviews serve as a warning to other consumers about potential moving scams and may prompt the business you hired to respond.

Sharing your experiences on social media platforms can also put pressure on the company to resolve your issue. Many companies monitor their social media presence closely and may respond more swiftly to concerns.

When to Hire an Attorney for a Moving Company Dispute

You may need to consult an attorney if your dispute with the moving company escalates beyond basic customer service resolution and formal complaints. Consider seeking legal representation if your complaint involves:

  • Severe financial loss: You’ve suffered significant financial damages due to lost or damaged belongings, excessive fees, or fraudulent charges.
  • Contract violation: The moving company blatantly violated the terms of your agreed-upon contract.
  • Suspected fraud: You have reason to believe the moving company engaged in deceptive or illegal practices.
  • Complex regulations: You’re struggling to navigate federal or state regulations regarding moving companies.
  • Unresponsiveness: The moving company is ignoring your attempts at resolution or disputing your valid claims.

Look for a legal professional who specializes in consumer protection or contract law to explain your legal standing, recommend the best course of action, and represent you in proceedings. Hiring an experienced attorney will increase your chances of achieving a favorable outcome. They can pursue full compensation for your losses and potentially secure additional damages for the company’s negligence or wrongdoing. Additionally, an experienced attorney is more likely to uncover patterns of fraudulent behavior that might strengthen your case.

Moving Complaints vs. Moving Claims

Filing a moving claim is different than filing a formal complaint—though the two processes are related. Often, you need to file a claim with the moving company before escalating to a formal complaint, especially if damage or loss is your primary concern.

A moving claim seeks direct compensation for items lost or damaged during your move. Each moving company has its own claims process and coverage terms, but you generally file your claim directly with the moving company. The goal here is simply financial reimbursement for broken or missing belongings.

The FMCSA requires all interstate moving companies to offer two types of liability coverage, released-value protection and full-value protection. You can also purchase moving insurance through a third-party company.

Most companies have strict deadlines for filing claims, so you need to act quickly. Follow the claims process outlined in your moving contract. This typically involves submitting a detailed inventory of the damaged items, photographs, and descriptions. Follow any guidelines to ensure your claim is processed quickly and efficiently.

A moving complaint addresses broader issues with the moving company’s conduct or practices. You can file a complaint with various regulatory agencies and consumer protection organizations, such as the FMCSA and the BBB. The purpose of a complaint is to trigger an investigation and force the company to comply with regulations or address the problem you experienced.

How To Protect Yourself From Moving Company Scams

A little due diligence goes a long way in protecting yourself from moving scams. Follow these tips to ensure a smooth moving experience:

  • Research movers thoroughly on the FMCSA website.
  • Read online reviews from multiple platforms.
  • Get a detailed, written estimate and contract.
  • Be wary of lowball quotes and large upfront deposits.
  • Avoid movers without a physical address or professional website.

Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it likely is. Trust your gut and invest time in finding a reputable mover.

Our Conclusion

Knowing your rights and the options available to you will help you navigate moving complaints successfully. We recommend trying to work it out with the company first and filing an insurance claim as soon as possible if your belongings were lost or damaged. Keep detailed records and be prepared to take legal action if necessary.

FAQ About Filing Complaints Against a Moving Company

Who regulates moving companies in the United States?

The FMCSA regulates interstate moving companies in the United States. State agencies, such as public utility commissions, transportation departments, and consumer affairs divisions, regulate local moving companies.

How do I dispute a charge from a moving company?

Contact a moving company directly to dispute a charge. If you cannot reach a satisfactory resolution with the company, you can file a moving complaint with the FMCSA for interstate moves or the relevant state authority for state moves. You can also initiate a credit card chargeback or take your case to small claims court.

What do you do if a moving company does not show up?

If a moving company does not show up, call directly and ask about the delay. If the company fails to provide a reasonable explanation or solution, consider filing a formal complaint. You may need to quickly find another company to handle your move in the meantime.

What should I do if I am not satisfied with a moving company?

If you are not satisfied with a moving company, start by discussing your concerns directly with the company. If the issue remains unresolved, you can file a formal complaint with the FMCSA, BBB, and state agencies. You can also post about your experience on review platforms and social media.

What do you do if a moving company is scamming you?

If you were scammed by a moving company or moving broker, report the incident to local law enforcement and file a formal complaint with the FMCSA or your state’s regulatory agency. You can also report the scam to the BBB and other consumer protection sites. Consider consulting an attorney about potential legal action.

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