The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today announced that three Chicago-area household goods moving companies have had their interstate operating authority revoked or suspended due to serious violations of safety and commercial regulations. In addition, all three companies were assessed civil penalties.
"Moving is stressful enough without families having to worry whether or not their possessions will arrive safely," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "The Department of Transportation is cracking down on dishonest movers and working hard to educate families on how to avoid them in the first place."
The three companies are the following:
Aurora, Ill.-based White Glove Relocation Services, Inc. (USDOT No. 2069670) was ordered shut down for safety violations. The company's operating authority has also been suspended for holding customers' shipments hostage. The company has been assessed civil penalties totaling $56,300 for commercial violations (holding shipments hostage, misleading advertising, billing clients excessive charges for moves) and $2,070 for safety violations (failing to implement a random drug and alcohol testing program, using a driver not medically qualified). The company is currently not allowed to operate in interstate commerce.
Cicero, Ill.-based Able Moving, Inc. (does business as Father & Sons Moving Service) (USDOT No. 1418141) had its operating authority suspended for holding customers' shipments hostage. The company has been assessed civil penalties totaling $20,000 for commercial violations (holding shipments hostage) and $2,000 for safety violations (failing to implement a random drug and alcohol testing program). The company is currently not allowed to operate in interstate commerce.
Chicago-based Best Price Moving & Storage (USDOT No. 693651) was ordered shut down for safety violations. The company was allowed to resume operations after it fulfilled a corrective action plan. The company has been assigned a federal safety rating of "Conditional" and FMCSA will monitor its safety compliance. The company has been assessed civil penalties totaling $15,900 for commercial violations (billing clients excessive charges for moves, false documents purporting to release the carrier from liability) and $5,530 for safety violations (failure to maintain driver qualification files, failure to maintain drivers' duty status records).
In 2012, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation produced a report that focused on Chicago-area household goods moving companies that had received numerous consumer complaints, including holding customers' shipments hostage until additional charges were paid. In the months that followed, FMCSA established a Moving Fraud Task Force targeting the identified Chicago-area companies as its first intensified investigation, which resulted in the enforcement actions announced today.
"Unscrupulous moving companies are on notice that any attempt to take advantage of customers will get them shut down, period," said Senate Committee Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV. "The practices we uncovered of Internet moving brokers and some moving companies were appalling -- particularly in the way they exploited vulnerable consumers, who often had no way of fighting back once they got caught in a predatory scheme. Today FMCSA is proving once again that they're willing to do what it takes to kick the worst actors out of the marketplace."
More than 5,800 household goods moving companies are registered with FMCSA. In 2012, FMCSA received more than 3,100 consumer complaints about household goods movers, up from 2,851 in 2011. Among the most common complaints are shipments being held hostage, loss and damage, delay of shipments, unauthorized movers, and deceptive practices such as unwarranted overcharges.
"Our Moving Fraud Task Force is working to identify the unscrupulous companies," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Consumers can also take action to protect themselves by going to www.protectyourmove.gov and learning how to spot the warning signs of a bad carrier and tips to select a safe and reliable one."
Consumers can report unsafe and unlawful moving companies by calling FMCSA's nationwide complaint hotline at 1-888-368-7238 (1-888 DOT-SAFT) or by visiting the database at http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov.
Consumers can visit www.protectyourmove.gov to find out more about the "red flags" of moving fraud.