October 8, 2002
Sean Caine, 410-576-6357
LAW GIVES CONSUMERS MORE PROTECTION IN DISPUTES WITH MOVING COMPANIES
General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. is alerting consumers and moving companies
to a new Maryland law that gives a new measure of security to consumers
hiring a moving company. The law, effective October 1, prohibits
the mover from refusing to deliver the consumer's goods when there
is a dispute over the final bill.
law applies only to intrastate movesmoves from one place in
Maryland to another place in Maryland. Interstate moves are regulated
by federal law, which provides similar protection to consumers.
the law took effect, a mover could refuse to deliver the consumer's
goods unless the consumer paid the price it demanded, even if the
price was much higher than the estimate. The mover could drive away
with the goods, put them into storage, and sell them at auction
unless the consumer paid. With their goods "held hostage,"
many consumers had no choice but to pay hundreds to thousands of
dollars more than the estimate, often in cash.
new law ensures that once a mover loads the consumer's goods onto
the truck it is obligated to deliver the goods," Curran said.
"Any disputes over the final bill can be settled later."
there is a dispute over the amount due, the mover must deliver the
consumer's goods and later use lawful collection actions, such as
demanding payment, referring the claim to a creditor collector,
or suing the consumer.
said the new law puts an end to the situation in which a consumer
is forced to pay more money than anticipated in order to receive
his or her belongings. However, he said, it will not put an end
to consumers being surprised by a total bill that is much higher
than the estimate they received. He said disputes over bills are
common in intrastate moves because consumers typically get only
a rough estimate over the phone. Such estimates may only be a guess
based upon the number of hours a mover expects a typical "two-bedroom
apartment" move to take, for example. The consumer's actual
move may take much longer.
Attorney General strongly urges consumers not to rely on a telephone
estimate. Instead, he recommends asking for a written estimate,
preferably based on the mover visiting the home and inspecting the
goods to be moved. The estimate should include the amount of money
the consumer will be required to pay before the truck is loaded,
how payments must be paid (in cash, money order, check or credit
card), a full description of the goods to be moved, and any additional
charges that will be made for wrapping or packing materials.
can request a free publication about hiring a moving company by
calling the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at (410)
576-6500 or visiting www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/edge102.htm.
Consumers who have a dispute with a moving company may call the
Division for information on how to file a complaint for mediation
of the dispute: (410) 528-8662 or toll-free in Maryland: 1-888-743-0023.