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For Immediate Release
October 8, 2002
Contact: Sean Caine, 410-576-6357

NEW LAW GIVES CONSUMERS MORE PROTECTION IN DISPUTES WITH MOVING COMPANIES

Attorney 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.

The law applies only to intrastate moves–moves from one place in Maryland to another place in Maryland. Interstate moves are regulated by federal law, which provides similar protection to consumers.

Before 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.

"The 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."

If 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.

Curran 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.

The 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.

Consumers 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.

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Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372
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