Greenville, SC (Dec. 2, 2013) – Better Business Bureau serving 10 counties of the Upstate SC area is alerting consumers about the closing and investigation of United West Moving and Storage Inc. based in Anderson, SC. United West Moving and Storage was shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), along with four other moving companies, for holding customers shipments hostage and failing to turn over records related to federal investigations. FMCSA made the announcement via a press release on Tuesday, Nov. 26.
Bad business practices in the moving industry work like this. Consumers and the moving company agree on a price to move personal belongings. At the end of the move, the movers demand extra fees and hold the belongings hostage unless the fees are paid.
In addition to United West Moving and Storage Inc. of Anderson, additional moving companies that were closed include:
- Allegiant Van Lines Inc., based in Davie, Fla;
- Northern Van Lines Inc., based in Cooper City, Fla;
- Northeastern Vanlines Inc., based in Pembroke Pines, Fla; and
- Direct Movers Inc., based in Pikesville, Md.
According to news reports, Christopher Michalski of South Carolina owns United West Moving, Allegiant Van Lines of Davie, Northern Van Lines of Cooper City; and Northeastern Vanlines of Pembroke Pines.
Nationally, in 2012, BBB received over 1.4 million moving-related inquiries and more than 9,300 complaints against movers. Complaints included damaged or missing items, big price increases over originally-quoted estimates, late deliveries, and goods being “held hostage” for additional (disputed) payment.
“It’s unfortunate how people can be taken advantage of during a very stressful time, like moving,” said Vee Daniel, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Upstate. “Sadly, it happens, so it’s important to do your homework and seek a reputable company you can trust with your personal possessions.”
Formed in 2012, FMCSA created the Moving Fraud Task Force in order to investigate household goods moving companies with multiple complaints. According to complaints filed in the National Consumer Complaint Database, three of Michalski's Fla. based companies received over 100 complaints combined.
BBB offers the following tips for finding a trustworthy moving company:
· Research the company thoroughly. While state regulations vary, all interstate movers must, at minimum, be licensed by the federal government and are assigned a motor carrier number you can verify. Get free BBB Business Review on movers from across North American, including ratings and complaint information at www.bbb.org
· Get at least three written in-home estimates. Not all price-quotes online or over the phone are legitimate. Keep in mind that the lowest estimate can sometimes be an unrealistic low-ball offer, which can cost you more in the end. Get free quotes from BBB Accredited Businesses at www.bbb.org
· Know your rights. Research your rights as a consumer for interstate moves or for moves within SC. Also, contact the BBB and local law enforcement if the moving company fails to live up to its promises or threatens to hold your belongings hostage.
· Consider getting full-value protection. It may cost a few dollars more up front, but it can provide some peace of mind and eliminate a headache after your move. Investing in full (replacement) value protection means any lost or damaged articles will be repaired or replaced, or a cash settlement will be made.
For more consumer advice you can trust and to check out a moving company near you, visit www.bbb.org.