So your moving company turned out to be a scam? Is there anything you can do to fight back?
If you want to get your money back, the first thing you have to do is to file the damage claim. You have six months from the date of moving to do it; the moving company is supposed to reply to your complaint in 30 days. Take pictures of all damaged items and submit it with your complaint with the original prices. Good moving company would send an appraiser to check your items and evaluate the damage; they are quite prompt to compensate you for the troubles. But I assume we are dealing with one of many dishonest companies, so don’t get your hopes high. Filing damages is just a first step towards the arbitration or court, so you can proof that you have done everything in your power to resolve this issue.
After you file the damage or service claim, the moving company has to offer you some kind of compensation; however, if you are dealing with a dishonest moving company, it probably would be something absolutely unacceptable. My moving company damaged two of my bedroom sets and they offered me $18 in compensation. If the company has not replied in 30 days or you are not satisfied with the compensation, your next step is to go to arbitration or a small lawsuit court.
Both options are going to cost you money. If you would like to go with arbitration you would find the arbitration information on a back of your conract. The fees to file a lawsuit can vary depending on the state. The arbitration’s decision is final and you cannot file the lawsuit after that. Now the most important thing: most of the scamming moving companies have a clause in their contract that all lawsuits against them have to be filed in the state of their residence. It stops a lot of customers from suing, because if you moved from one coast to another, probably, the last thing you want to do is to go back to sue the moving company. Don’t let it discourage you! Go to the court in your state and file the lawsuit. If they try to fight it because of this clause in the contract, inform the judge that the FMCSA (Federal motor Carries Transportation Administration) has ruled that the choice of the venue is not applicable to the movers, so you can file in your local court. Unfortunately, even most lawyers are not aware of this information, so they can advise you to drop the charges.
Be prepared! Bring all the documents (contract, bill of landing, inventory list, weight certificate), pictures of your damaged items, damage claims and e-mails. Create a log of your phone conversations with the company: names of the people you talked to, dates, subject of your conversation. If the company is located in another state, you have a chance that the company is not going to appear in the court, so you can win by default. But it also means that this company probably doesn’t care if they win or lose, because they are not going to pay you anyway. If you are prepared and you believe that the truth is on your side you should not have problem to win, even if the moving company sent all the lawyers in the world to defend them (ok, this part is probably my wishful thinking, we all have seen how unpredictable the court or jury decision can be).
If you win your lawsuit but the moving company is located in a different state, you’ll have to file a sister-state judgment, where you ask a judgment from your state to be transferred to the state of the moving company’s residence. The moving company has 30 days to protest the court decision.
So as you can see, this route takes time, a lot of paperwork, and additional expenses. Should you still do it? I think you should. Moving companies know that most of us won’t go all these trouble and just succumb to the loss; that is why they are still in business and we hear the same story over and over again. It has been almost 10 months and I haven’t seen even a penny back, but I am still glad I did it.
Another way to get even with the moving company is to get your story out there.
First, you should file the complaint with the FMCSA and DOT (www.fmcsa.dot.gov). They also have FMCSA’s Safety violation and Consumer Complaints Hotline at1-888-368-7268. Have all your information ready because they are going to ask a lot of questions. If your complaint is legit, FMCSA is going to start investigation and hopefully fine the company. Money will go toward the road improvements, so I guess, it is a great way to help our economy and we all win.
File the complaint with Better Business Buro (www.BBBonline.org). Probably, the moving company in question is not even a member or doesn’t have any rating, the site still has the information about number of complaints against the company, so it can be a warning sign to anybody who will check it.
File the complaint with local consumer protection agency.
File the complaint with www.movingscam.com.
Write reviews about the company to every website you can find out there.
This is all I have done so far. I believe that information is the most powerful tool we have to prevent us from being a victim to any scamming schemes. If you know any other ways to get back at dishonest moving companies or if you were a victim of a different scam share your experience. I think IB is a great place to start.
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