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 document at origin provided it contains all relevant sipping information except the actual shipment weight and another other information necessary to determine final charges for all services performed.
The estimate or revised written estimate must contain a detailed itemization of all services and charges and must be approved and signed by the consumer shipper before services begin. The estimate or revised written estimate must never be signed blank or incomplete. A consumer shipper should never sign an estimate or revised written estimate that does not list the total estimated charges.
Note: In addition to the above general requirements, an interstate moving company must continue to follow all provisions of federal law governing interstate moves. Federal laws regulating moving companies are designed to help protect consumers and create an even playing field for moving companies. By following the law, moving companies can avoid government fines, lawsuits, and provide better service to their customers.