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Report: #67368

Complaint Review: American Moving & Storage Association - Alexandria Virginia

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  • Reported By: Radford VA
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  • American Moving & Storage Association 1611 Duke Street Alexandria, Virginia U.S.A.

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National Association of Professional Movers (the AMSA) Thumbs Its Nose at Consumers

Consumer protection is urgently needed in the moving industry, which has been essentially unregulated since 1995. Two competing bills addressing this topic have recently been introduced in the House of Representatives. One is HR 1070, introduced by Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wisconsin), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Highways & Transit, at the behest of consumer advocacy groups concerned about rampant abuse. The other is HR 2928, which was introduced by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-New York) after he received a $2,500 campaign contribution from the national association of professional movers, the American Moving and Storage Association (the AMSA).

HR 1070 is a good first step toward protecting consumers from being victimized by an out-of-control moving industry. In contrast, the AMSA-supported HR 2928 only exacerbates the current situation. These are the facts:

1) HR 1070 will finally enable local and state police to enforce Federal laws regulating interstate moving companies. State Attorneys General will be able to prosecute moving companies under state fraud and deceptive practices laws which are currently preempted by the Carmack Amendment. (This outdated amendment lets moving companies off the hook because it prevents consumers from suing in civil court for fraud, extortion [hostage freight] negligence, breach of insurance contract, breach of contract of carriage, conversion, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. All state laws are overruled by the Carmack Amendment.) No other industry enjoys such complete protection from the consequences of willful fraud or negligence.

If you've ever been a victim of a hostage load situation in which a mover held your belongings and demanded thousands more than the original estimate, you probably know that local and state police will decline to get involved. Usually they will tell you that it's a civil matter-a contract dispute between you and the moving company-and that you must take the company to court. Again, if you've been a victim of a scam mover, you know that most attorneys will refuse to take such a case, even when there's unmistakable fraud, because all you stand to collect is the amount of the overcharge and/or the depreciated value of lost or damaged goods. The Carmack Amendment prevents you from suing for fraud, so you can't get punitive damages, and your legal fees will amount to more than the moving company is trying to steal from you.

Rather than supporting a worthy bill like HR 1070 to remedy this situation, the AMSA has belatedly introduced a rival bill, HR 2928, that does not have a clear provision allowing state Attorneys General to act against moving companies engaging in interstate fraud. In defense of this consumer-unfriendly position, the AMSA has argued only that HR 1070 will promote "frivolous lawsuits."

2) HR 1070 codifies current regulations stating that a mover, upon delivery of goods, cannot charge more than 110% of the original job estimate. In theory, consumers are now able to bring a civil suit when movers attempt to hold their goods hostage for more than 110% of the estimate. In practice, this rarely happens because so little in damages can be recovered. The AMSA, with HR 2928, seeks to withhold even this minimal protection from the consumer, and leaves completely open-ended the amount that can be charged, even when a customer has been given a "binding" estimate. Under HR 2928, before unloading a customer's belongings, moving companies will be allowed to demand whatever amount they want. With no maximum collection rule, HR 2928 in effect legalizes the practice of holding people's goods for ransom.

The AMSA keeps on trying to buy influence in Congress, as is shown by this statement in the August 1, 2003, issue of its newsletter: "AMPAC [the AMSA's Political Action Committee, a lobbying group] needs to raise a minimum of $15,500.00 by September 30, 2003, in order to gain the necessary political access to the thirty-one (31) members of Congress serving on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who have not yet received campaign contributions from AMPAC this year." One of AMPAC's top priorities is defeating HR 1070.

However much it may be concerned about ensuring the survival of its own members, the AMSA is taking a stance that harms consumers and protects scam movers by continuing the status quo. Lawmakers who will decide this issue must understand that the AMSA-supported HR 2928, by eliminating the 110% restriction and by not being clear about whether State Attorneys General can pursue legitimate redress, takes away what little legal recourse consumers have. Without HR 1070, it is certain that consumers will keep on getting scammed because there is no deterrent. Honest movers who do not scam their customers should not be afraid of a bill that levels the playing field and protects consumers from the morally challenged in the moving industry.

The situation is urgent. Please support HR 1070 by writing to your Representative in Congress and to the members of the House Subcommittee on Highways & Transit. You can find your Representative's name and address at http://www.house.gov/. The Chair of the Subcommittee is Rep. Thomas E. Petri, and his contact information is follows: 2462 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515-4906, phone (202) 225-2476, fax (202) 225-2356. The names and addresses of the other members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee are available at http://clerk.house.gov/committee/index.php?subcomcode=HPW12

Honest moving companies have nothing to fear from HR 1070, but if HR 2928 passes, it will be "open season" on consumers.

Kay
Radford
U.S.A.

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#3 Consumer Comment

Sad Truth, moving & storage companies can do hideous things

AUTHOR: Cosmo - (U.S.A.)

POSTED: Sunday, October 12, 2003

This person has done her homework. Many people just rely on friends to help them move because it is general knowledge that moving & storage companies can do hideous things and get by with them.

I have seen several cases where elderly persons moving south to retire, have been totally caught out by the unscrupulous actions of national and fly-by-night companies both.

Something should indeed be done to protect the average person from the capricious actions of rouge removal companies!

Why, in my day, moving was an art. The huge vans would move at a crawl down Queen Street and pull up at intersections where brawny negro men stood around the burn barrel for warmth. The horn would bleat; the driver would thrust out his hand and extend one, two, three or more fingers. Who wants work this frosty Virginia morn? You Sambo? How about it Willie? and on it would go until the men would all be taken to pack or unpack until day was done and they, in turn, would pack up for home, their dusky forms blending with the early dusk of late November as they filter through the gloaming day to seek out what ever underworld pleasures excite joy in the African's Soul.
And as the cold north wind roiled the cool ashes in the burn barrel, you might hear the crack of somebody busting up a pallet for the morning's fire. Why? Because the moving never stopped.

That is 100% on the spot and it is still going on today. What to do? Well, when your house catches fire, do you call your congressperson? Hell no! You call the fire department! In this case though, I suggest calling Fred Davis of Nevis St. Kitts and Onancock, VA. Fred is the one to call.
I got to go now.

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#2 Consumer Comment

AMSA Continues to Buy Influence

AUTHOR: Kay - (U.S.A.)

POSTED: Sunday, October 12, 2003

The AMSA continues to buy political influence with contributions to the following politicians who have agreed to co-sponsor HR2928.

James E. Clyburn, SC $1,500
Timothy V. Johnson , IL $1,000
Nydia M. Velazquez, NY $2,000
Jo Ann Davis, VA - $500

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#1 Consumer Comment

How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Politician? Ask the AMSA ..American Moving and Storage Association

AUTHOR: Kay - (U.S.A.)

POSTED: Friday, October 10, 2003

Ever wonder how much it costs to buy a politician...to BUY political influence? The following is a list of politicians who have accepted contributions from the AMSA in exchange for co-sponsoring a bill that does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to help consumers. That bill is HR2928 and it unfairly favors the moving industry over consumers.

Sherwood Boehlert , NY - $2,500
Howard Coble , NC - $1,500
John J. Duncan Jr., TN - $1,000
Sue W. Kelly , NY - $2,929
Rob Simmons , CT $1,200
Shelley Moore Capito , WV - $1,929
Bill Shuster , PA -$1,500
John Sullivan , OK - $500
Ernest J. Istook, Jr., OK $1,000
Walter B. Jones, Jr, NC $1,250
Juanita Millender-McDonald , CA - $2,000
Elijah E. Cummings , MD - $1,000
Bill Pascrell Jr., NJ $1,250
Rick Larsen , WA - $500
Michael H. Michaud , ME - $500

Since the moving industry was deregulated in the mid 1990s, those who need the services of a mover have been victimized both by rogue movers and by major van line agents who have taken full advantage of the situation to scam the unsuspecting.

Last January, after having been embarrassed by an NBC Dateline expose, Representative Thomas Petri finally introduced a consumer protection bill known as HR-1070. Fearing that its protection was about to be removed, the AMSA (American Moving and Storage Association) responded by contributing $2500 to Representative Boehlert, who returned the favor by sponsoring a competing bill HR-2928 which offers virtually NO consumer protection and instead keeps the protected status quo for moving companies who want carte blanche to scam consumers.

Now several other politicians have agreed to co-sponsor the bill after receiving campaign contributions from the AMSA. If youve been victimized by a mover, write your Representatives today and ask them to sponsor Representative Petris bill, HR-1070.

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