Comsumer Information
For Those Moving Within California

Prepared by The California Moving and Storage Association


Tips On Choosing A Mover

- Licensed: Be sure the mover is licensed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). Their license is a Cal-T (6-7 digit number) and is to be shown on all documentation and advertising. Call the CMSA or the CPUC to check license status. Never move with a mover whose license is non-existent, revoked, or suspended.
- Estimate: Try to make moving arrangements well in advance of moving day. If you have more than a couple of rooms of furniture to move, call two or more movers for written estimates. Yes, you want to evaluate rates/prices, but you also want to evaluate the company through their representative to be sure they are qualified to move you.
- Find prospective movers in your area by contacting the CMSA, personal referrals, real estate brokers, and the yellow pages. Be wary of companies advertising in certain local newspapers and /or handbills talking "cheap" price. Check to make sure they are licensed and carry required insurance coverage. If they break or lose something, you want it fixed or replaced to the limits of their liability.
- Carrier/Mover Liability: Make sure the mover explains their basic liability and transit protection options. Be sure to ask questions.
- Price/Rates: While always a factor in buying anything, do not select a mover on price alone. Trained personnel, clean, safe moving vans, and insurance protection cost money.
- Remember: This company is sending movers into your residence to handle and move your personal possessions. The lowest price, especially if it is far below the average price of other movers, may be a red flag.  Be careful! Don't move priceless heirlooms on the cheap!
- Storage: If you require storage space for your household effects for a short period of time prior to moving to a new residence, your CMSA member mover can assist you. Storage rates for short term storage, less than 90 days, are regulated maximum rates by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Long Term Storage (More than three months) is unregulated and rates can vary. Most household goods storage facilities store personal effects in wooden containers referred to as vaults. Common industry practice is to charge by the vault per month plus valuation protection.

Some self storage companies offer storage and require you to load/unload your own vaults. This widely advertised service sounds inexpensive. However, be sure to check the monthly vault storage rates with those of a conventional household goods storage warehouse. Conventional storage facilities pricing is often far more reasonable. The possessions are stored in the same manner as self storage vaults and your belongings can be accessed by yourself in the same manner as self storage.

If you need information on reputable, safe, clean, and reasonably priced storage facilities, call or write the California Moving and Storage Association.
- Not to Exceed Price: The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulations require all movers to provide each consumer a "not to exceed price" before the move commences.
- Important Information for persons moving within California is a booklet mandated to be provided at the first in-person contact between the consumer and the mover, unless the consumer has received the same from another mover.
- Evaluate Service Presentations: Listen and evaluate the mover's presentation of services and price. Usually an individual presentation stands out in clarity, and your questions and concerns are professionally answered to your satisfaction.
- Visit the Mover: Drive by, stop in the office and buy a box. Make sure the mover has a business. See the trucks at the business site. Look around to make sure these are the kind of people you wish to invite into your residence to handle/move your personal possessions.
- A CMSA Member: You should want a mover who abides to a code of ethics, operates clean and safe trucks, and utilizes trained personnel. They will provide for quality service at fair and competitive prices.

Moving Tips

- Schedule your move with a mover well in advance (i.e., 30 days) of your moving date. Be sure the proper crew and equipment are reserved. Remember the summer months are the peak moving season. The beginning and ending days of each month are also busy for licensed/insured movers.
- If you are moving three or more rooms, invite at least two movers to view those items you wish to have packed and/or moved. Be sure to show each estimator everything to be moved. Also, be sure each estimator is given comprehensive destination delivery information. Can the van be parked properly and close to the destination residence? Are any stairs involved?
- If you wish to save money and perform some of your own packing, ask your movers how and where can you obtain suitable boxes.
- Set aside enough time to perform your own packing well in advance of moving day.
- Pack up a special "last on truck, first off truck" box. Include light bulbs, a flashlight, water, a favorite toy for children, one set of towels and linens, coffee pot, etc. You may want to take this "special box" with you in the car.
- Notify the post office of your change of address. Send out change of address cards to businesses, friends, and relatives prior to moving.
- Dispose of all flammables, combustibles such as matches, aerosol cans, paint, thinner, etc. Drain all fuel from mowers and other equipment. Dispose of propane tanks or take them to a proper propane service outlet to properly bleed the tank.
- Unplug and do not use television sets 24 hours prior to moving. Internal damage can occur should a TV set be moved in which heat is still retained. Only move television sets after they have been reduced to room temperature.
- If you are moving items of extraordinary value or antiques, obtain a written appraisal of such items to verify value. Avoid waxing or oiling wooden antiques and fine furniture before moving because some products may soften the wood, making it vulnerable to imprinting from furniture pads.
- Be ready on moving day. Local moves are normally charged on a hourly basis. Items not to be moved by movers should be obviously segregated. Know where you want items placed at destination. Arranging and re-arranging furniture placement at destination increases the price.
- Tips: Trained and professional movers work hard and are paid a salary. Some drivers may work on a percentage. Tips are not standard or required. However, as with any other service provider, if the consumer wishes to tip and can afford to do so, it is an individual decision. If you are pleased with the service, do write a note expressing your pleasure with your crew.

Public Utilities Commission Information

General Information About Household Goods Carriers:

The California Public Utilities Commission regulates the licensing, rates, and rules of the Household Goods moving industry in the State of California.

Household Goods movers regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission must comply with the Commission's Code and its General Orders that are pertinent to the moving industry. Each mover's rates and rules of operation are explained in the carrier's tariff. The Household Goods' tariff that is currently in effect is the Maximum Rate Tariff 4. All regulated carriers must abide by the legal maximum rates and other mandated rules contained in the Maximum Rate Tariff. All movers must present to all prospective shippers (consumers) of household goods in the State of California an informational booklet entitled "Important Notice to Shippers of Household Goods within California". Upon confirmation, each shipper must receive an "Agreement for Service" which is the contract between the consumer and the mover. This contract must contain a "Not to Exceed Price" and an affirmation of valuation.

The Commission does not regulate the following:

  • Interstate Transportation (Transportation between States)
  • Long Term Storage (Storage which exceeds 90 days)
  • Proprietary Transportation (Transportation where the goods transported are owned by the mover)
  • Goods transported wholly on private property
  • Goods not transported in a motor vehicle
  • Loss and damage claims

About the Consumer Intake Unit:

The Consumer Intake Unit of the Consumer Services Division is located at 505 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102. The Consumer Intake Unit answers questions, accepts written complaints, and resolves disputes which result from violations of the mover's tariff and the Commission rules. The Consumer Intake Unit will assist consumers in all matters pertaining to movers in the State of California. For the convenience of the consumers, a toll free 800 line has been established. Consumers can phone in their complaints by calling (800) 366-4782 during business hours.

E-mail Your Complaint

You can E-mail your complaint by clicking here.

Household Goods Enforcement Unit

This Unit investigates alleged or apparent violations of the Public Utilities Code, Commission regulations, and other California statutes involving household goods carriers, commonly referred to as moving companies. The CPUC has jurisdiction only over California intrastate transportation, that is, when the move both originates and ends up in California. Moves crossing state lines are under the jurisdiction of the Office of Motor Carriers of the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation (main office in California: (916) 498-5050).

All movers offering or performing California intrastate transportation are required to have an active CPUC permit, and public liability and cargo insurance on file with the Commission. The majority of the Unit's efforts involve the detection and abatement of movers advertising and operating without CPUC permits. These movers, known as "bandits," expose the public to significant harm, and have a tremendous, unfair economic advantage over their lawful competitors. The Unit has many tools at its disposal for controlling the bandit mover problem, including stings, intervening with moves in progress, administrative fines, criminal and civil prosecution, and injunctions. The newest of these tools, effective January 1, 1997, is Public Utilities Code Section 5322, already being used extensively by the Unit. This new law allows Special Agents to obtain a magistrate's finding that telephone service is being used by an unlicensed mover to violate the law. The finding is then used to obtain an order directing the utility providing the telephone service to disconnect it, with no prior notice to the mover. (Telephone subscribers whose service is disconnected under this procedure are entitled to a hearing before a Commission ALJ within 21 days.) Since movers rely heavily on telephones to obtain and conduct their business, this procedure has proven to be extremely effective.

Occasionally, a mover comes along who simply uses the "moving" business as a front for the extortion of money from his customers, and the theft and embezzlement of their property. One such unlicensed mover, Larry Phillips, is currently serving a nine-year prison term in Southern California, having been convicted in 1996 of nine felonies, including the theft and embezzlement of money and property, resulting from an Enforcement Branch investigation. Phillips and his company placed dozens of customers' personal belongings in an open field, exposed to the elements, then demanded more money from some of those customers so he could "locate" their property. Much of the property tendered to this mover was destroyed, or lost and never recovered. Partly in response to that case, the Consumer Services Division sought and obtained legislation, resulting in a new statute, Public Utilities Code Section 5259.5. That law authorizes the Commission to seek relief from a superior court by way of mandamus, injunction, or appointment of a receiver, whenever it determines that a mover has abandoned, or is abandoning, the stored household goods of a customer.

A few licensed movers have also been known to victimize members of the public, and these also demand the attention of the Household Goods Enforcement Unit. Very often, these movers employ various bait and switch tactics, typically beginning with an unlawful, verbal estimate, and concluding with one or more price hikes after the move begins, when the customer has little choice but to pay. This type of case may result in an administrative fine, or an OII, which may conclude with suspension or revocation of the mover's operating authority. Obtaining reparations for victims of unlicensed and licensed movers investigated by the Unit is always a top priority.

Consumer complaints about movers should be referred to the Consumer Intake Unit of the Consumer Services Division at (800) FON 4 PUC. If you're shopping for a mover, a good place to begin is by reading the booklet entitled, "IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR PERSONS MOVING HOUSEHOLD GOODS (Within California). Movers are required to provide this booklet to all prospective customers upon first in-person contact, or, if possible, to mail it to the customer at least three days prior to the move. Before you hire any mover, get its "Cal T-number," (the CPUC permit number) which is required to be included in all advertising by movers. If you don't find this number, ask the mover for it. Then call the CPUC at (800) 877-8867 to verify that the permit is valid and active.

The California Moving and Storage Association

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