SCAM Act targets rogue movers

| 3/6/2003

Rep. Tom Petri, R-WI, chairman of the House Highways, Transit and Pipeline Subcommittee, introduced legislation March 4 to allow individuals or states to take action under state consumer protection laws against illegitimate interstate household movers.

"While the vast majority of moving companies operate in a fair, open and honest way, consumers are facing an increasing problem with rogue movers," Petri said. "One of the most egregious practices of scam movers is the 'hostage goods' situation, where a mover low-balls an estimate, loads the consumer's goods onto his truck, drives off and then refuses to deliver the goods until paid an amount in cash that can be up to four or five times the amount of the original estimate – in strict violation of federal regulations.

“Several victims have gone months without knowing where their clothes, furniture, photo albums, family keepsakes and the rest are located. And yet there is little the consumer can do."

Petri said state and local authorities frequently avoid moving disputes as various courts have ruled they have no jurisdiction over interstate moves. Meanwhile, the federal government lacks the manpower and resources to respond adequately at the local level, he said.

In response, Petri's Securing Consumers' Assurance in Moving (SCAM) Act of 2003 would clarify federal law to make it clear individuals can sue rogue operators and to allow states to become enforcement partners with the U.S. Transportation Department.

The SCAM Act also will establish new fines for carriers who hold household goods hostage and for other consumer violations. The act would also increase the availability of consumer information regarding interstate movers.