Senate passes package of consumer safeguards against moving company scams
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 2/10/22-Sen. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, speaks during session, Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Florida companies account for most of the complaints.

Legislation broadening consumer protections against price-gouging by moving companies is packed up and traveling to the Legislature’s lower chamber with uniform approval from the Senate.

The bill (SB 304) targets movers and the businesses that link them with customers, hiking documentation requirements and prohibiting them from withholding people’s possessions for excessive fees.

It applies only to moving operations within Florida. Moves between states are subject to federal oversight.

Republican Palm Harbor Sen. Ed Hooper, the measure’s sponsor, briefly explained its provisions Wednesday. He and his colleagues then voted 39-0 to send the bill to the House, where a similar measure (HB 367) by Democratic Rep. Allison Tant of Tallahassee awaits a floor vote. Democratic Jacksonville Rep. Kimberly Daniels recently signed on as a co-prime sponsor.

Hooper said during the bill’s first Senate committee stop in December that its goal is to address a rising trend of predatory practices in the moving industry by boosting transparency and accountability requirements.

In 2022, the Better Business Bureau received more than 15,000 complaints against moving companies and moving brokers that act as intermediaries between movers and customers. The organization recorded some 30,000 complaints between 2017 and 2019.

And most of the bad actors are in Florida, a Newsweek analysis of complaints filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found. Of 7,647 cases, more than half involved moving companies and brokers in the Sunshine State.

Hooper said the problem stems from moving brokers setting one price for relocation services and the moving company to which they refer customers demanding a new, higher fee before offloading people’s belongings.

SB 304, he said, “gives the protection back to the consumers” and authorizes the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to penalize moving brokers and companies that act unscrupulously.

It would ban moving brokers from giving estimates or providing contracts for services that include estimated costs of a move. A broker would also have to make clear that it only arranges for moving services and that its fees aren’t part of the cost of a move.

The measure would also increase moving broker reporting responsibilities to both consumers and FDACS and require them to work exclusively with Florida-registered moving companies and maintain a $50,000 performance bond or certificate of deposit in a Florida bank.

Further, the bill would impel movers to sign contracts that include the estimated date and cost of a service to customers before providing any moving or accessorial work. Contracts must include contact and locational information for their workers and the goods shipped or stored; an itemized breakdown of all costs and services; and a clearly written and conspicuously placed disclosure of all acceptable forms of payment.

Violators would face up to $50,000 in fines. A Mover that refuses to relinquish a customer’s goods after police confirm the customer paid the sum agreed to in a written contract estimate would face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


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