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Old 03-14-2012, 09:10 PM
35 posts, read 275,016 times
Reputation: 44


Can a moving company charge me a cancellation fee if I have not yet signed an agreement with them??

I got an emailed internet quote from them after a visual inspection which I did not sign or "click to accept" however I did schedule a moving date with them after the inspection via phone.

Later during another phone conversation with them they told me the cost would actually be $1k more due to packing materials they thought I would need.

At that point I decided to call another moving company & get another estimate. Company#2 came out & did a visual inspection, took inventory & wrote up a "not to exceed" quote for me.
They gave me a PUC booklet which I signed for, a copy of the inventory list & the "not to exceed" quote in writing, however I did not sign it.
They said Company#1 had vastly underestimated the weight of my belongings by some 5k lbs. & were basing their
estimate on the weight they believed I really had.

I called Company#1 back to cancel. They said no problem but then switched me to a rep who offered to waive some charges, up my weight restriction, waive the hourly charges & provide 6 hr of packing at a reduced rate however I would have to reschedule the move to take place much sooner (in 1 week). They gave me a new quote over the phone & I
agreed to it via phone however they did not provide me with an updated written estimate including anything discussed in this phonecall.

The next day 2 packers from company#1 arrived & packed me for 5 hrs but only completed one room. I paid them $100 cash as I had agreed over the phone & signed a change order form at the end. They assured me it was for the packing portion only. I filled in the amount: $100 for 5 hrs packing at $20 per hour, my address, phone# & signed at the bottom.
The rest of the fields were blank with no amounts in them.
This is the only thing I signed with Company#1.

I was told by Company#2 that I should've been given a booklet from the PUC explaining my legal rights & also a "not to exceed" estimate in writing from Company#1 however, neither was offered.

Growing suspicious of Company#1 & decided I wanted to go with Company#2 instead.
I called Company#1 to cancel & they told me I would owe them a $75 cancellation fee as I had not given them the proper 10 days notice. I see no verbage regarding their cancellation policy on the emailed quote I initially received from them.

Can they legally charge me a cancellation fee when I have not signed anything except the change order for the packing which I already paid them for? They say yes because they made me a special deal on the packing as part of the moving package we discussed, but again, I do not have any of that in writing.

After reading the PUC booklet Company#2 gave me, I learned that I should've received & signed for this booklet
from Company#1 & if not then I am eligible for a $100 refund from them. Also that I should've received a "not to exceed" quote from them in writing (that verbal & internet estimates are not legally binding).

What are my rights. Do I really owe Company#1 anything if I cancel with them?

Thanks for your help.

Last edited by IOSilver; 03-14-2012 at 10:10 PM..
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Old 03-14-2012, 10:07 PM
521 posts, read 4,412,358 times
Reputation: 596
You're answer is going to depend on what type of move you're trying to arrange. Local moves, intrastate moves and interstate moves can all have different regulatory requirement depending on where your moving from an to.

On shipments involving interstate commerce, the Federal Consumer Protection Regulations included in 49 CFR 375 state that the bill of lading is the contract and the customer is free to change anything up the point that they sign it. Many states have the same regulatory requirements. Since you mentioned PUC, I suspect this is an intrastate move.

Sounds like you're dealing with one of the web vultures who prey on inexperienced and uninformed internet shoppers.

I'm not an attorney but I think most transportation lawyers will tell you they don't have a leg to stand on.

When you're moving, you best bet is find three reputable movers and get them to provide you with in home estimates. Sound like you already found one.

If you are moving interstate, I suggest your download read Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's ProtectYourMove.gov website.

You might also want to check out How to Find a Professional Mover.
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Old 03-14-2012, 11:07 PM
35 posts, read 275,016 times
Reputation: 44
Oops, sorry. I'm moving from one city to another in California.
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Old 03-14-2012, 11:26 PM
521 posts, read 4,412,358 times
Reputation: 596
Yeah, tell 'em to go fly a kite and then fill out a complaint at CPUC Moving Companies: Consumer Information Center

California's enforcement officer have been cracking down on rogue movers and unscrupulous brokers. Sounds like you dealing with the later.

Call the closest CPUC office tomorrow and ask them if the company demanding the $75 dollar cancellation fee is even authorized to provide quotes on intrastate moves. Most fly-by-night move brokers aren't!
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Old 03-15-2012, 04:19 PM
35 posts, read 275,016 times
Reputation: 44
Thanks for the advice & the links.
Wish I had read all of this before I started. Lot's of good information.

I called the PUC & here is what they told me:

Both companies have active licenses & no complaints against them.

I am not liable for the $75 cancellation fee since I didn't sign a written agreement nor was I made aware of their cancellation policy in advance.

I should've been handed a written estimate when the visual inspection was done. Internet & verbal estimates are not binding so even if I had "clicked here to accept" on the emailed estimate it would not have been enforceable.
Besides, written estimates are not contracts. As you stated: the bill of lading is the actual legal contract & is signed just prior to loading.

If the mover fails to give you the "Important Information For Persons Moving Household Goods" booklet within 3 days of the move you are entitled to a $100 refund from them.

I found some useful information on this site as well: http://www.consumersrelocation.com/5.htm (broken link)
Like the difference between the terms: "Not to Exceed" & "Binding"

Thanks for your help, Much appreciated!

Last edited by IOSilver; 03-15-2012 at 04:48 PM..
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