About two weeks ago, the American Moving and Storage Assn. unveiled the certification program to its members. Movers must agree to abide by a Code of Conduct that provides for complete consumer information, written estimates, timely service, and prompt response to claims and complaints. They also must agree to consumer requests for arbitration to resolve disputes that arise on loss or damage claims up to $5,000. Federal requirements only require arbitration for disputes up to $1,000.
"In 1998, the public was exposed to numerous TV news segments focused on movers," said Joe Harrison, AMSA president, in a letter introducing the program to members. "As a result of this attention, individual consumers and consumer groups are suggesting that the federal government promulgate new consumer protection regulations in addition to those already imposed on our industry." AMSA believes that enforcement of existing regulations would be more helpful than adding more regulations that won't be enforced.
Participants in the Certified Mover and Van Line Program can use a special seal in their advertisements that will identify certified movers and van lines. Participants in the program also will be listed on the industry's consumer web site at http://www.moving.org.
The annual cost for van lines with agent networks is $1.20 per agent, with a minimum fee of $125. The annual cost for independent carriers with no agent network or for agents under their own operating authority is $125. For agents and independent carriers that are currently subject to the AMSA minimum level of annual dues, the fee is $50.
AMSA will administer the program by accepting written consumer complaints and forwarding them to the carrier in question. A separate fee will be charged for each written complaint received by AMSA that is forwarded to the carrier. Carriers can be de-certified for frequent violations and a lack of response to complaints.
"It's going to be a slow process before we get it going to where we can tell the world, 'Check in your yellow pages and you'll see ads with certification logos,'" says George Bennett, AMSA spokesman. He estimates it will take about a year to get to that point, but the reaction so far has been very good. "I think in light of the rogue movers who've been giving the industry a black eye, everyone thinks it's a really good thing. It gives us a standard by which consumers can judge. It gives them another tool to use."