Action News Investigation: Moving company accused of cheating customers

Watch report from Action News
January 31, 2014 7:31:27 AM PST
Action News is investigating a moving company that, customers say, bilked them out of hundreds dollars in cash.

We conducted the undercover, hidden camera investigation after being alerted nearly a dozen complaints. Customers say the estimates this company gives some customers are so enticing, people who are in the midst of a costly move can be easily lured in by their low rates.

But complaint after complaint received by the New Jersey Attorney General accuse the company of bogus up-charges. The customers we spoke with said they were threatened if they didn't pay up, the company would drive off with their possessions.

"I think they are horrible," Virginia Jedry, a victim of the company told Action News. "I think they are thieves."

We spoke with 3 victims who say say they all fell victim to a New Jersey company called Moving Max. Virginia Jedry says she was quoted $225 to move the stuff from her small one bedroom apartment. But when they showed up with her property already loaded on the truck, the foreman handed her a bill for $1,234.

Lilly Miller says Moving Max quoted her between $150 and $225 dollars.

"He handed me this paper with all of these itemized things on it, for $1,180 and I almost hit the floor!" Miller told Action News.

Satish Kurelly says Moving Max told him that his one bedroom apartment move would cost around $400, but the final bill was a shocker at $1,373.

So Action News set up hidden cameras in a storage unit we rented, on our producer who worked the story and inside an apartment. Then we contacted Moving Max for a quote. The price we were quoted was between $225 to 300 dollars.

The company estimated it would cost us $75 an hour, for a 3 to 4 hour move, which we confirmed in an email. When the truck arrived at 9 a.m. the foreman named Frank tried telling our producer there was a 5 hour minimum.

The conversation at the scene went like this:
6abc Producer: "Wait, so now this says 5 hours?"
Mover: "This is just the paperwork, but if she told you something else on the phone, that's what she told you because they make different rules for customers."
6abc Producer: "OK good."

After backtracking on that upsell, they started wrapping everything with old blankets and rolls and rolls of tape. Our producer told the crew they didn't need to wrap anything. But they kept wrapping, and wrapping, in spite of our insistence we didn't want to pay more.

6abc Producer: "No, no, no, but it costs more money right?
Mover: "On the blankets? They told you blankets are free right?"

When the truck arrived 6 miles down the road with our belongings at 10:40 a.m., not even 2 hours later than the start time, a new set of rules suddenly applied.

Frank: "Alright miss. I just spoke to the office and you are not going to like this."

The new quote: was $927 including charges for:

  • Those blankets we were told were free
  • A 5 hour minimum move
  • Another two hours for travel time
  • A 7% tax which our estimate said was included
  • A $200 EPA charge

And if we didn't pay up:
Frank: "You don't want to do that, because if they take it to storage they are going to charge you a re-delivery fee; that I can assure you."

That's when the Action News team stepped in.

Wendy: "We have you on tape, telling her, yes, that if $225, that's what you agreed to that's all she had to pay. So how come now you are trying to charge her this much?
Frank: "If that is the agreement she came up with with the office, I don't know why the office is saying no."

The mover's would not answer our questions. Instead they walked away while we called the police.

Our research showed that there was a lot of fraudulent dealing going on.

"I have never heard of an Environmental Protection Act charge for moving," Eric Kanefsky, director of the New Jersey Attorney General Division of Consumer Affairs.

Kanefsky reviewed our bill. He says there is no legitimate EPA charge, and there is no tax on services like moving. Moving Max has been on the AG's radar since they opened 5 months ago, and they've already racked up nearly a dozen similar complaints of bait and switch. "A bait and switch, telling somebody that they are going to charge you a price... and then for the same service charging them more and then holding their goods hostage, that is a violation of our state's Consumer Fraud Act, and frankly probably all states' consumer fraud act."

Even after we called the police, Moving Max refused to take our furniture off the truck unless we paid them $600 cash. Unfortunately it seems as if they know all the loopholes in the law. There is nothing the police can do because this would be considered a civil dispute.

You can get more information about hiring a moving company from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. This link also provides information about public movers and warehousemen.

In Pennsylvania, movers are regulated by the Public Utility Commission.

This link will take you to Consumer Complaint forms for the Attorney General's Office in Delaware.

You can also get tips about making sure your move goes smoothly from the Protect Your Move website operated by the Federal Department of Transportation.


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