New rules for household goods movers pursued in four states

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Operations of household good movers are the subject of legislative efforts at statehouses around the country.

A new Arizona law covers concerns about “hostage loads.” Specifically, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a bill to prohibit moving companies from holding in-state customer possessions over a payment dispute.

The governor said the new law protects consumers moving within Arizona and mandates transparency from moving companies. Moves across state lines are governed by federal law.

“Customers don’t need the added worry of having to deal with unscrupulous movers taking advantage of them,” Ducey said in prepared remarks. “This legislation rightly puts an end to ‘hostage loads’ and ensures all fees and costs are disclosed from the get-go.”

Effective Aug. 8, moving companies will be required to accurately and completely disclose information about fees, charges and insurance. Movers cannot refuse to deliver goods unless they have provided consumers with an up-front estimate and the consumer has failed to pay.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich said moving scams come in a variety of forms, including false advertising, undisclosed fees, lack of insurance, and lowball prices combined with bait-and-switch tactics.

Previously HB2145, the new law permits police to take possession of household goods that a mover refuses to deliver and unload.

Moving companies will be authorized to pursue collection of unpaid amounts on the contract after the goods are unloaded.

In Pennsylvania, one bill would boost penalties for “rogue” household goods movers operating in the state.

State law now requires HHG movers to register and obtain a permit with the Public Utility Commission, to maintain workers compensation coverage, to pay wages subject to taxation, and to have adequate insurance coverage for goods moved.

The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee voted to advance a bill that applies criminal penalties to HHG movers who fail to adhere to existing rules in the state.

“In Pennsylvania, it is more advantageous to operate a household goods moving company illegally than it is to comply with the law,” stated Sen. David Argall, R-Schuylkill/Berks. “These illegal companies often lack the necessary insurance coverage to protect damaged goods during a move, leaving the consumer on the hook.”

SB458 calls for offenders to face $5,000 fines, a third-degree misdemeanor, suspension of registration, and/or confiscation and impoundment of the motor vehicle used in the illegal move. Subsequent offenses could result in $10,000 fines.

Fine revenue would be used to help PUC motor carrier enforcement efforts.

The bill awaits a Senate floor vote. If approved, it would move to the House.

A North Carolina bill would revise the state’s rules for HHG movers. In an effort to thwart unlawful operations, HB732 would require proper vehicle markings to verify authorization from the state to do business.

Any law enforcement officer would also be permitted to enforce rules.

Offenders would face up to $500 fines. Repeat offenders could be fined up to $2,000. The Utilities Commission could also assess a civil penalty of up to $5,000.

The commission could also provide information obtained as part of a criminal background check on applicants and current certificate holders.

The House voted unanimously to advance the bill to the Senate. The bill is in the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.

In Louisiana, a bill awaiting a final vote on the Senate floor would require HHG moving businesses to be open for business and to be staffed during regular business hours. The Louisiana Public Service Commission would also be authorized to suspend or cancel business operations for carriers that fail to maintain a permanent establishment in the state.

If approved by the Senate, HB128 would head to the governor’s desk. House lawmakers already approved the bill by unanimous consent.

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