07/31/2012 05:17 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2012

Transportation Department Targets Moving-Company Abuse With New Law

Sometimes, when a moving company has all your earthly possessions boxed up in a truck, they take it as a license to do whatever they like -- charge you extra, hold onto your stuff indefinitely or even threaten you if you don't cough up extra cash.

A new law aims to change that.

The Transportation Department will be able to charge unscrupulous movers a minimum penalty of $10,000 if they try to squeeze customers for extra money, under a law signed by President Obama earlier this month, according to USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

Bad experiences with movers -- especially with individuals or companies that don't have a license -- are all too common. The WSJ cites a recent survey by the consumer review site Angie's List in which 38 percent of respondents said they'd run into problems during a move, like stolen items or unexpected charges. And the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the Transportation Dept., said that it received 2,851 complaints about moving companies in 2011, a 17 percent jump over the previous year.

The Better Business Bureau received more than 9,000 complaints against movers in 2011, according to a May press release.

The Transportation Department's new authority will only apply to interstate moves, as opposed to movers that do not cross state lines.

Among the moving horror stories that have surfaced in recent months: a woman in Washington says the owner of a moving company threatened her and held her possessions hostage; a woman in Georgia says she has paid thousands of dollars more than originally estimated, and is still waiting for her moving company to ship her things down from New Jersey; and another woman in New Jersey says her movers jacked up the price once her things had been loaded onto the truck -- and then said they'd give her a discount if she slept with them.

USA Today also reports on a New Jersey man -- what's the deal, New Jersey? -- who says his movers charged him hundreds of dollars extra after he had to make an emergency trip to the hospital that postponed his move by two days.

Have you ever been the victim of a moving-company scam? Please share a comment or email

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