Moving company facing fines, suspension

March 17, 2009 7:55:30 PM PDT
The Public Utiltiies Commission is looking into a Bay Area moving company with a long list of complaints on its record. Moving day is stressful enough, but what if your moving company demands more money than expected at the end of the day?

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The Public Utiltiies Commission is looking into a Bay Area moving company with a long list of complaints on its record. The company was quoting very low moving prices then socking its customers with high bills at the end of the day.

7 On Your Side began investigating and now the state is investigating too.

It was just before their wedding. Roxanne and Doug Franco were moving from San Francisco to San Mateo. So, they were thrilled when "Better Way to Move" quoted them a price of just $440 for the entire move.

"I thought great, we're going to do this move for like 500 bucks. That's amazing," Doug recalled.

"For me, I've always moved with a U-Haul and a bunch of friends. So, to think wow I can finally not do all of that and have someone else take on all of the work" said Roxanne.

The company emailed a rate quote saying it would take three men four hours to complete the job, and it would cost $440. But, on moving day the Francos were shocked with a bill that was four times higher.

"He comes back to me and says ok the whole move is going to be about $1800. So of course I flip. I'm like, what?" said Doug.

The Francos say the movers actually took 12 hours and charged them for packaging the couple did not want. But, the movers would not finish the job until the couple paid.

So, they did pay. But later they called the company owner Eran Bar to complain. Describing the call Doug said, "He's like you can be angry all you want. I'm running a business."

After weeks with no resolve the couple called 7 on your side and we contacted owner Eran Bar. He told us the move took longer than expected and he did not owe anybody any money.

7 On Your Side investigated further. It turns out the Francos are far from alone.

The California Public Utilities Commission received 32 complaints in just the past year against Better Way to Move and, its parent company CHS Transportation of San Jose.

"I will tell you that we are investigating the company and it is an open investigation, and we have not brought an action yet," said Moira Simmerson.

Simmerson is supervising investigator for the PUC. She says the PUC is investigating the company because there are so many similar complaints.

Possible actions can include fines or suspension of its operating license.

Simmerson says, "The consumers felt they were charged more than they were led to believe they should expect to pay for the move."

For example, one complaint claims that CHS quoted a price of $563 to move 10 miles but actually charged the consumer $10,600.

CHS was providing quotes over the phone or by email. Those quotes are not legally binding. But, Simmerson says the company failed in many cases to provide a written agreement with a maximum price, three days before the move, as required by law.

The Francos did not receive their papers until moving day.

"In several instances those types of forewarnings are missing. Those are the types of things that alert us to be concerned and to prompt an investigation," said Simmerson.

The PUC has ordered refunds in 18 of these cases. CHS has refunded five consumers and thirteen are still waiting for their money.

Among them are Roxanne and Doug.

The PUC ordered CHS to refund them $790.

"You know we finally made it to where we didn't have to do the U-Haul thing and it was just a real disappointment," said Rozanne.

7 On Your Side tried to contact the company again but no one answers the phones.

To avoid surprises on moving day ask your mover for a written estimate based on a visual inspection of your items. Written estimates are legally binding for moves within California. However, if you are moving to another state federal rules apply and they are different.

Laws that regulate moving companies in California:
Moving Companies: Consumer Information Center
Moving Companies
Moving Company Investigations

Laws that regulate moving companies in states outside California:
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: How to Protect Your Move

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