How to File a Complaint Against a Moving Company

Asha Kennedy
Mar 09, 2021
Icon Time To Read6 min read

No one likes to feel ripped off after a long move. And if this is what you’re feeling, let us be the first to say: we’re so sorry this has happened to you. The good news? You have options.

In these situations, we encourage you to file a formal complaint to help resolve the issue as quickly as possible. You can file a complaint in a few different ways:

  1. Reach out directly to your moving company.
  2. Submit your complaint to the FMCSA National Consumer Complaint Database.
  3. Contact a state regulatory or enforcement agency.
  4. Consider arbitration with the American Trucking Association (ATA).

We’ll walk you through a four-step process to file a claim against a moving company—and explain when you might be better off just leaving an online review. We’ll also share some tips for avoiding moving scams.

Info Box
What about car shipping?

You can file a complaint about auto transport services just like you can for other moving services. Check out our list of common car shipping questions to learn more. 

When should I file a damage claim vs. a formal complaint?

Technically, formal complaints are only meant for when the moving company violates the terms and conditions of your contract. A good example: your written estimate promises delivery in 10 days for $1,000, but it takes much longer, or the bill is more expensive.

If you’ve experienced awful customer service or questionable business practices (but nothing that explicitly broke your contract), you can still make an impact and warn future customers by leaving a public review on websites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, or Google. And for any kind of damage to your property, it’s best to go directly to your moving company to file a claim.

You can also check with professional moving associations such as American Trucking Association (ATA) to see if your situation rises to the level of a complaint.

Heads Up
File a claim with your mover for damages

Damage to furniture or property, especially items that are irreplaceable, can be devastating. Unfortunately, it’s a common part of professional moving. It’s best to file a claim (not a formal complaint) for those damages with your moving company, especially if you purchased transit protection from them. The best way to do this is to contact your moving coordinator, and they will walk you through the process of submitting your claim.

When should I file a formal complaint against a moving company?

We urge you to file a complaint against a moving company when the company breaks the terms of your contract.  No one likes to be on the receiving end of deceptive business practices. Here are several valid reasons to make a complaint:

  • Late pickup or delivery. Your moving company misses the contracted date to pick up or deliver your belongings.
  • Stolen items. Your items are missing at delivery.
  • Moving scams. Your mover takes your money but never performs the work.
  • Unlawful possession of belongings. Your moving company holds your belongings hostage until you agree to pay a higher fee.
  • Slow service. Your mover deliberately moves at a slow pace to increase hourly charges.
  • Unexpected charges. Your final bill includes charges not specified in your contract.

Let’s say you paid a hefty deposit, and no one showed up on move day. Or maybe you were asked to pay thousands of dollars before the driver would release your belongings for delivery.

Remember: you can leave customer reviews for problems such as poor customer service, misleading websites, or extensive damage to your property, but for more significant issues like missing items and random charges not mentioned in your contract, it’s more effective to file a formal complaint.

How do I file a complaint against a moving company?

It’s easy to lose hope when you’ve reached a breaking point and your mover isn’t willing to resolve your concerns.. Don’t give up just yet—you can still take action and file a complaint against a moving company in several ways, as mentioned  :

  1. You can reach out directly to your moving company.
  2. You can submit your complaint to the FMCSA National Consumer Complaint Database.
  3. You can contact a state regulatory or enforcement agency.
  4. You could consider arbitration with the American Trucking Association (ATA).

We recommend you follow a straightforward four-step process to make a complaint about a company you hired to help you move.

Step 1: Document your concern

Try to gather as many names, dates, and places as you can if you plan to file a complaint. Specific details can only strengthen your case. You’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • Your moving company’s name, address, and phone number
  • Pickup and delivery address
  • Your mover’s USDOT and MC numbers
  • A detailed description of your concern (including names, photos, and dates)

Step 2: Check your contract

Most formal moving complaints require you to prove that a moving company violated the terms and conditions of your contract. For example, if a moving company quoted you $1,200 but then charged $1,500, you need to find the dollar amount listed in the contract.

Step 3: Submit your complaint to your moving company in writing

While it may be tempting to immediately start the process of filing a formal complaint, most agencies won’t begin the complaint process unless you’ve submitted one to your moving company first. We know it’s not fun, but you’ll have to contact your moving company and file a complaint before going to a regulatory agency. In many cases, the company will apologize and take steps to resolve your concerns.

But if your moving company denies your claim (or you’re dissatisfied with the offered solution), you’ll be prepared to take the next step.

Step 4: File a complaint with outside agencies

You can file a complaint with one of several organizations if your moving company doesn’t offer a solution that rectifies your experience. Be sure you’ve gathered all the important documentation, double-checked your contract, and officially submitted your written complaint to the moving company. You’ll need all the info you’ve already diligently collected to file a complaint with a third party.

How to file a complaint with the FMCSA

The FMCSA is the government agency that regulates the trucking industry—including trucks that transport your belongings. However, the FMCSA handles only complaints that involve interstate transport. You can file a complaint with the FMCSA here.

If you moved within the same state (rather than going from one state to another), it’s better to file a complaint with a state agency.

DOT’S most wanted

The US Department of Transportation publishes a list of its most wanted fugitives—including “rogue movers” that promise customers a low price and then hold their belongings hostage until they pay more.

How to file a complaint with a state agency

The agency you work with to file a complaint about an in-state move depends on where you live. For example, customers in Alabama can file complaints with the Public Service Commission or Transportation Division, while customers in Wyoming work with the Department of Transportation.

You can find your state’s enforcement agency in FMCSA’s State-Level Enforcement Resources.

How to file a complaint with ATA

ATA is a nonprofit trade association for truckers and moving companies. The organization has thousands of members who follow ATA’s code of ethics—or risk losing their memberships.

ATA has two ways of dealing with customer concerns:

  1. Complaints. You can file a complaint with ATA for a shipment delay, poor quality of service, or any reason that doesn’t fall within the arbitration guidelines.
  2. Arbitration. You can pay a fee to go to arbitration with your moving company if you have a dispute about lost or damaged goods or charges tacked onto your bill after delivery.
Still don’t feel heard? Consult a legal professional

If you’ve exhausted all these options and still haven’t reached a resolution, we recommend that you consult a legal professional who can advise you on how to pursue your complaint in small claims court and associated costs.

Tips for avoiding moving scams

You’ve learned about when it’s best to file a complaint and when to leave an online review. While the reasons for either approach differ, both are opportunities for you to voice your concerns after a nightmare moving experience.

While moving scams aren’t always obvious, there are ways you can be proactive and stop any shady businesses in their tracks. Here are ten tips to avoid moving scams:

  1. Shop around. Get quotes from three to five moving companies.
  2. Check the reviews. Take five minutes to read online reviews from other customers. It’s worth every second.
  3. Buy local. You don’t need to use a mom-and-pop shop, but you should make sure the mover’s local address is on its website.
  4. Use a licensed mover. Ask for the company’s USDOT and/or MC numbers, and then look them up in the FMCSA database. It takes less than a minute to identify an unlicensed mover.
  5. Follow your intuition. If an estimate sounds too cheap to be true, it is. That includes insurance: no mover’s insurance policy covers everything. Avoid companies that make these promises. 
  6. Get it in writing. That low rate sounds great on the phone. Just be sure the number finds its way into your written estimate and is signed by both parties. Proof is power.
  7. Read your contract. You don’t want to get stuck with hidden fees. Look at the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you don’t understand.
  8. Document everything. If you need to file a complaint, you’ll need to know names, dates, and numbers. It takes only a minute to write it down or take photos as it happens, but it can be difficult to remember later on.
  9. Get your estimate in person. The worst moving scams happen when companies promise one rate on the phone and then hold your household goods hostage until you pay more.
  10. Hold onto your cash. A reputable company won’t ask for a large deposit or cash payment until at least 48 hours before your move date.

While we hope the steps and tips we provided lead to a favorable outcome, we also hope you don’t have to read this article again. Here’s to a better moving experience for your next adventure!

Asha Kennedy
Written by
Asha Kennedy
Asha Kennedy is a researcher and content writer who brings almost 5 years of experience working directly with multiple carriers as a Move Coordinator, including Mayflower, United, and Allied International. During her career, she has successfully partnered with diverse clientele to coordinate Military, International, Interstate and Corporate relocations—and uses this experience to create meaningful and educational content for future movers! Asha graduated from Hampton University with honors in English. Asha enjoys being in nature, reading books, and learning new things.