News & Tips

Is Charging By Cubic Feet Legal?

Is charging by cubic feet legal? Yes! Charging a customer for an interstate move based on cubic feet is legal if the mover has a provision for cubic feet charges in its tariff and follows the general provisions of the law. Charges based on cubic feet, or other volume based charges, are allowed if the written estimate is BINDING. A mover may also offer options to a customer to charge based on weight OR cubic feet if the mover has a TARIFF that allows for both options. Federal law under 49 USC Section 14104(b)(1)(C) requires that "non-binding" estimates must be based on weight only. This section does not prohibit charges based on cubic feet; however it limits cubic feet charges to "binding" estimates. Moreover, a mover must generally follow certain requirements to legally charge a customer based on cubic feet. The following are general requirements for correctly/legally charging a customer based on cubic feet: (1) Estimates based on cubic feet must be BINDING…
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May Discounts of Tariff Charges be Given?

May discounts of tariff charges be given? No. Tariff rates/prices for line haul and accessorial services must NOT be randomly or individually discounted. Moving companies may not charge or receive different rates/prices for services other than the rates/prices specified in the tariff. This includes not offering or returning a discount or part of the rate to a customer. (see 49 USC § 13702(a)(2)). Amendments or changes to tariff rates/prices, properly documented, may be used to change the rates/prices for services; this is the only form of "discounting" that may be permissible. Under this method careful record keeping must be used to follow the law. What are the penalties for tariff violations? Penalties for violating tariff provisions by either overcharging or undercharging are both civil and criminal. Any person who charges rates over or under the tariff rate shall be liable for a civil penalty of up to $100,000.00 for each individual violation. (see 49 USC § 14…
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Can a Consumer be Required to Sign Incomplete Documents?

Can a consumer be required to sign incomplete documents? Consumers should never sign blank documents. However, in some cases it is acceptable to sign incomplete documents. Since the final charges for the moving services cannot be determined until after the goods have been loaded and weighed (when based upon weight) some of the documents a consumer shipper is required to sign at the time of pick-up will be incomplete and not contain the final charges. Signing a bill of lading at the pick-up that is incomplete and does not contain the final charges is not illegal or unusual since final charges are not known at the time of pick-up. Federal law governing interstate moving specifically states in 49 CFR section 375.501(d): [The motor carrier] may provide the individual shipper with blank or incomplete estimates, orders for service, bill of lading, or any other blank or incomplete documents pertaining to the move… You may require the individual shipper to sign an incomplete docu…
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The Myth of Binding Estimates

Are written estimates required for each move? Yes. A motor carrier must provide a written estimate to each prospective consumer shipper. An estimate must list all charges for transportation, accessorial services, advance charges, and the form of payment accepted. Both the consumer shipper and a representative from the motor carrier must sign and date each estimate. (49 CFR section 375.401). Is the "estimate" or "Order for Service" a contract? No. An estimate is neither a bid nor a contract. It is merely an approximation of what the move may cost based on the services listed on the estimate. Additionally, 49 CFR section 375. App. A, sup part E states that "the order for service is not a contract." The only contract between a motor carrier and a consumer shipper is the "bill of lading." The motor carrier or the consumer shipper may cancel the move at anytime prior to a bill of lading being signed. Consumer shippers should be informed that the charges listed on the estimate are…
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Legal Compliance for Moving Companies

How to prevent "low-balling" and abuse of revised written estimates. Low-balling an estimate is a serious crime. Interstate brokers and moving companies have a responsibility to protect their customers against this type of criminal fraud. As part of this responsibility management should set company-wide standards to ensure the accuracy of estimates, and monitor estimators to safeguard against "low-balling." The revised written estimate is a tool authorized by FMCSA regulation to be used in situations where the consumer shipper has made last minute additions to the property being transported or if they order last minute services - such as packing or storage. The revised written estimate cancels the original estimate and creates a new higher estimate accounting for the additional property to be transported or services ordered by the consumer shipper. Under FMCSA regulations an estimate, whether binding or non-binding, may be increased or decreased in price any time prior…
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Consumer Checklist

When hiring a moving company:   Get three written estimates before hiring an interstate moving company. Verify that the interstate moving company is properly licensed and insured. Ask for references from the mover and call them to verify their accuracy. Read and understand all estimates and contracts before signing. Make certain to receive and read the booklet:  "Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move." Verify that the moving company has a neutral dispute resolution program. Understand that an estimate is only valid for the services and number of items to be moved as described in writing. If, on the day of the move you add additional items to be moved or require additional services your price will increase. Most estimates are not guaranteed. Have a clear understanding of the pick-up and delivery window. Understand that, in most cases, delivery is not a guaranteed date. Purchase full replacement value insurance to protect your property.…
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