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Bill to empower FMCSA to crack down on scam household goods movers with civil penalties

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A new bill introduced on Wednesday would give the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) more power to crack down on scam household goods movers.

The bi-partisan Household Goods Shipping Consumer Protection Act was introduced by Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mike Ezel to provide more protection for consumers from scammers in the interstate transportation of household goods.

Specifically, the bill seeks to address consumer complaints about interstate moving companies that charge up-front fees to pack and move household items, then hold the items “hostage,” demanding additional payment to release them.

“The companies involved have launched websites with fake 5-star reviews, and when negative reviews are submitted, the scammers simply close down the existing companies and open new ones, repeating the original scheme under a new FMCSA license,” Norton’s office said in a news release.

The bill would crack down on fraudulent household goods movers by:

  • Providing FMCSA with the authority to assess civil penalties against unregistered shippers and against entities that hold consumers’ personal goods hostage
  • Giving FMCSA the express authority to reimburse states for enforcing federal consumer protection laws related to the transportation of household goods
  • Establish requirements to ensure that motor carriers, brokers and freight forwarders that seek registration are operating legitimate businesses

“FMCSA receives thousands of complaints every year from Americans who are the victims of fraud in the shipment of household goods by licensed entities,” Norton said. “This bill would provide FMCSA with explicit authority to assess civil penalties for violations of commercial regulations, and crucially, to withhold registration from applicants failing to provide verification details demonstrating they intend to operate legitimate businesses. Americans moving across state lines need to be able to have confidence in FMCSA-licensed companies transporting their physical belongings, and I’m proud to introduce this bill with Rep. Ezell to strengthen protections.”

The bill is endorsed by the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA), American Trucking Associations’ Moving & Storage Conference (ATA-MSC), Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association (OOIDA), the National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC), Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), Institute for Safer Trucking (IST) and Road Safe America.

“Freight fraud committed by criminals and scam artists has been devastating to many small business truckers simply trying to make a living in a tough freight market” Todd Spencer, OOIDA President, said. “OOIDA and the 150,000 small business truckers we represent applaud Representative Holmes Norton and Representative Ezell for their bipartisan leadership to provide FMCSA better tools to root out fraudulent actors, which are also harmful to consumers and highway safety. Because of the broad industry support for these commonsense reforms, we hope this bipartisan legislation will move through the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee without delay.”

Earlier this week, the FMCSA announced the launch of “Operation Protect Your Move,” an enforcement sweep targeting interstate household goods (HHG) movers and brokers to ensure compliance with federal regulations ahead of the summer moving season.

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