Picking a mover can often be more stressful than moving. There are nearly constant complaints of movers who don't show up, who hold customers' goods hostage and who engage in any number of slippery business practices.
But tracking down the bad guys can be difficult. Consumers are in a vulnerable position when their family belongings are on a truck that could be anywhere in the United States and often don't know who to call or don't complain for fear of making matters worse.
One rogue mover was pushed to the curb recently. King David Van Lines was found by a federal court in South Florida to have falsely used the name and trademark of a reputable competitor, NorthStar Moving Co., and was ordered to pay $13 million.
According to testimony and news reports, the company and its owner, Ohad Guzi, deceived customers and led them to believe they were doing business with NorthStar, a California-based company.
NorthStar got complaints
NorthStar found out about the problem when it began receiving complaints about missing items and broken belongings from customers it had never heard of, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Investigators looked into it and tracked the misleading website postings to King David, which was charged with trademark infringement and unfair competition as well as violating the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act.
“Defendant Guzi shall work cooperatively with plaintiff, to the best of his ability, to correct the residual use of plaintiff’s marks in the third-party websites,” U.S. District Court Judge William P. Dimitrouleas wrote in his order, according to Insurance Journal, an industry newsletter.
Movers are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which has extensive regulations intended to protect consumers. But enforcement is often spotty, in part because consumers don't know the agency exists.
Moving tips for consumers
The FMCSA's website lists "red flags" that consumers should watch out for when planning a move, including:
The mover doesn’t offer or agree to an onsite inspection of your household goods and gives an estimate over the telephone or online — sight unseen. These estimates often sound too good to be true. They usually are.
- The moving company demands cash or a large deposit before the move.
- The mover asks you to sign blank or incomplete documents.
- The mover does not provide a written estimate (can be binding or non-binding).
- The mover doesn’t provide you with a copy of the Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move booklet and a copy of FMCSA’s Ready to Move brochure, which movers are required by Federal regulations to supply to their customers in the planning stages of interstate moves.
- The company’s website has no local address and no information about their registration or insurance.
- The mover claims all goods are covered by their insurance.
- When you call the mover, the telephone is answered with a generic “Movers” or “Moving company,” rather than the company’s name.
- Offices and warehouse are in poor condition or nonexistent.
- The mover says they will determine the charges after loading.
- On moving day, a rental truck arrives rather than a company-owned or marked fleet truck.
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