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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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How to get an accurate estimate

Accuracy of estimates are based in large part upon the accuracy of the information the consumer provides the estimator.  Whether an estimate is given after an in-home visual inspection of the property or over the phone based upon a consumer's list of items to be moved - the accuracy depends on the information provided. To help get an accurate estimate consumers need to fully inform the company of all items that will be moved and the specific services needed.  You should always get three written estimates to compare and check a mover's license and references.  If you are going to use a professional moving company always make certain to hire a company that is properly licensed and insured. Consider the following list of tips to help ensure the accuracy of an estimate: ✓  Inform the estimator of all items being moved. Don't forget to list the items stored in an attic, storage unit, or garage. ✓  Describe in detail the physical location of the pick-up and delivery locati…
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Common Reasons For Price Increase

Perhaps the biggest complaint consumers have about moving companies is that the final price of the move exceeded the original estimate.  As explained above charges for moving services are based on many factors which could be unknown before the services have been completed. In some cases it can be difficult to estimate the exact weight of all the property in a house, or if there will be special services required at the delivery destination. A professional moving company should be able to give a reasonably accurate estimate.  However, all estimates are based upon the information provided by the consumer. In some cases a consumer may not know if the extra services, such as stairs or long carry, will be required to complete delivery at the destination.  There are many legitimate reasons the final changes for a move could end up higher than the original estimate given. Consumers need to be made aware in advance of the prices for extra services and be prepared to pay more mo…
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How Services are Calculated

Of the four options listed the two with the biggest variations in pricing are the full service moves through a major van lines and the á la carte moving services offered from regional independent movers in a broker's network. Generally, interstate moves performed by the nationally known major van lines or the regional independent moving companies are charged based on the weight of the property being transported or the amount of space (cubic feet) the property occupies on the truck, the distance traveled, time of year the move takes place, and the service options ordered. If the charges are based upon weight make certain that you are provided with official certified scale certificates verifying the accuracy of the weight. After the goods have been packed and loaded the truck will be weighed to determine the "line-haul" charges. Only after the truck and property has been weighed and services performed can the actual final charges be determined. Since the estimates are no…
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Know Your Moving Options

Option 1: Full service all inclusive moving from a nationally known major van line: The top of the line service in the moving industry is a full service all inclusive move performed by a nationally known major van line.  Generally, the major van lines perform quality services with the highest degree of professionalism and will charge a premium for their services. They will send a representative to your home to provide an estimate, send a team of movers in matching uniforms to do all the packing in your home, transport your goods in shiny new trucks, provide full insurance coverage for any loss or damages, and deliver quickly on a guaranteed date. The nationally known major van line is a good choice for consumers who don't want to lift a finger during their move, receive white glove services, and don't mind paying a premium price. Option 2: Regional independent moving company and/or moving broker offering á la carte services at discounted pricing: A great alternative…
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How to Avoid Hidden Charges

The long distance interstate moving industry is made up of professional, hard working, honest companies, estimators, drivers, and movers who provide reliable services. Most interstate long distance moves will be completed quickly and efficiently to the satisfaction of the consumer. However, as with any industry, there is always a chance of service failures, damaged or missing items, overcharges, and falling prey to unscrupulous and unlicensed individuals masquerading as licensed professional movers.  The best way for a consumer shipper to prevent fraud, protect their property, and enforce their rights is to be an informed consumer who researches and hires a reputable professional moving company. This section is designed to help consumers research and hire a professional long distance interstate mover. Review the information in this section, do your homework before hiring a mover, and then you can benefit from services and experience of a reputable and reliable professiona…
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Arbitration Information

As with any industry, disputes can arise between a customer and a company. The moving industry is no different. Disputes between a moving company and a consumer shipper can arise for many reasons. The most common disputes a consumer shipper can have with a moving company will involve issues of overcharges for services, failure to deliver on time, or damages and missing items. Consumer / shippers have several options in trying to resolve the disputes with a moving company. The best method for resolving the dispute is direct discussion with moving company customer service department. A legitimate moving company will have a customer service department which can address and help resolve disputes. In most cases, any issues or disputes can be resolved as a matter of customer service. However, when an issue cannot be resolved through the normal customer service methods, a consumer may wish to look to other means to address the issues.When considering alternative approaches to ad…
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