How to File a Complaint Against a Moving Company

At a glance

Tens of millions of American move each year, but only a small fraction end up filing complaints against their movers.1

It’s rare, but things can go wrong. Maybe your belongings wind up damaged or missing. Or perhaps the mover sticks you with a higher bill than you agreed on.

Not fun. You go from being excited to start an adventure in a new home to angrily typing “file complaint moving company” into your search bar.

But you don’t have to take it on the chin or go straight to small claims court. In many cases, the issue can be resolved by filing a complaint against your moving company. Most customers file complaints with one of three organizations:

  1. American Moving & Storage Association (AMSA)
  2. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
  3. State regulatory or enforcement agencies

We’ll walk you through a simple 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.

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WHAT ABOUT CAR SHIPPING?

WHAT ABOUT CAR SHIPPING?

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

When shouldn’t I file a complaint against a company?

Have you ever spent 30 minutes waiting on hold for a customer service rep only to be hung up on? Or talked with three reps and two supervisors just to leave angrier than when you started?

It’s frustrating.

But these service-oriented shortcomings rarely qualify for formal complaints.

Formal complaints are for instances in which the moving company violates the terms and conditions of your contract: for example, the written estimate promises delivery in 10 days for $1,000, but it takes longer or the bill is more expensive.

We recommend leaving a review to warn future customers about concerns that don’t rise to the level of a broken contract. You can also check with professional moving associations such as AMSA to see if your situation rises to the level of a complaint. In the case of AMSA, you can call the organization and discuss the specifics of your situation.

Heads up exclamation

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

The best way to deal with moving complaints is to avoid companies with bad reputations. Learn more about some of the best in the business in our lists of the best rental truck companies, best moving container companies, and best full-service moving companies.

When should I file a complaint against a moving company?

You should consider filing a complaint against a moving company when the company breaks the terms of your contract. You can leave customer reviews for problems such as poor customer service or misleading company websites, but for more significant issues, file a formal complaint.

The most common complaints deal with companies known as “rogue movers.” These companies give you a quote and pick up your belongings, but they refuse to deliver them unless you pay more.

There are several common examples of moving mishaps that lead to customer complaints:

  • Damaged items. Your belongings are damaged when they arrive.
  • Late pick up or delivery. Your moving company misses the contracted date to pick up or deliver your belongings.
  • Lost items. Your mover fails to deliver some or all of your belongings.
  • Moving scams. Your mover takes your money but never performs the work.
  • Rogue mover. 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.

How do I file a complaint against a moving company?

You can file a complaint against a moving company with one of several nonprofit or government organizations. It’s important to document your concern and file a complaint with the moving company itself before contacting a regulatory agency.

Complaint typeCostOrganization type
AMSAInterstate movers and intrastate moversNo charge for complaints. Unspecified arbitration fees are shared by the customer and moving company. Nonprofit trade association
FMCSAInterstate moversN/AGovernment
State agenciesIntrastate moversN/AGovernment
AMSA
FMCSA
State agencies
Complaint type Cost Organization type
Interstate movers and intrastate movers No charge for complaints. Unspecified arbitration fees are shared by the customer and moving company. Nonprofit trade association
Interstate movers N/A Government
Intrastate movers N/A Government

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

Step 1: Document your concern

Names, dates, and places are important if you plan to file a complaint. You’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • Your mover’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 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: Contact the moving company

Any formal complaint will ask what happened when you filed a complaint with your moving company. It’s not fun, but you need 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.

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

Step 4: File a complaint

You can file a complaint with one of several organizations if your moving company doesn’t offer a solution you’re willing to accept. Be sure you’ve completed the first three steps before you get to this point. You’ll need the info you’ve already collected to file a complaint with a third party.

How to file a complaint with AMSA

You can file a complaint with AMSA here. AMSA is a nonprofit trade association for moving companies. The organization has about 4,000 members who must live up to AMSA’s code of ethics—or risk losing their memberships.

AMSA has two ways of dealing with customer concerns:

  1. Complaints. You can file a complaint with AMSA 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.
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WHAT IS ARBITRATION?

WHAT IS ARBITRATION?

Arbitration is a formal dispute resolution process in which a third party helps you come to an agreement with your moving company.

How to file a complaint with the FMCSA

You can file a complaint with the FMCSA here. 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.

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

Fun Fact Badge

DOT’S MOST WANTED

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 here.

Tips for avoiding moving scams

We’ve talked about when to file a complaint and when to leave an online review. And we’ve walked you through the complaint process for both an intrastate mover and an interstate mover.

But we also want to make sure you don’t have to read this article again. Follow these 10 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. 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. Don’t be a sucker. If an estimate sounds too good 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—or it’s worthless.
  7. Read your contract. Don’t get stuck with hidden fees. Look at the fine print before signing on the dotted line.
  8. Document everything. If you end up needing to file a complaint, you’ll need to know names, dates, and numbers. It takes only a minute to write it down 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.

Recommended resources

People also asked . . .

Sources

  1. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Protect Your Move,” January 2014. Accessed June 16, 2020.

About Kurt Manwaring

Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.