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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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