COMPLIANCE WITH FEDERAL STATUTORY REQUIREMETNS -
Beginning in 1996, interstate movers were required, as a condition of maintaining their registration, to offer neutral binding arbitration on interstate shipments for individual shippers as a means of resolving certain types of disputed claims. Since 2005, the requirements have been expanded to include both:
1) Disputed loss and damage claims is a mandatory requirement if the amount of dispute is $10,000 or less, and
2) Disputes regarding additional charges that are billed to the customer after the shipment was delivered is also mandatory arbitration requirement if the amount of the dispute is $10,000 or less. (Previously, only disputes involving loss or damage claims were subject to mandatory arbitration.)
The arbitration program is put in place to offer customers an alternative option to avoid excessive attorney's fees, in case the settlement between the mover and the customer can not be reached.
The mover is required to offer customer a compromise settlement and mention the availability of arbitration program and include arbitration brochure with the claim correspondence to customer to make sure that customer is fully appraised of arbitration program.
Some movers provide information of the existence arbitration program with their pre-move materials, in which the program is described accurately to avoid client confusion and potential legal exposure.
ARBITRATION THRESHOLD -
The regulations require that disputes of $10,000 or less on interstate shipments must be submitted to binding arbitration at the shipper's request if no settlement can be reached.
Arbitration is not mandatory for claims of more than $10,000. If the claim involves a dispute of more than $10,000, binding arbitration can be used to settle the dispute (which is most likely less expansive and easier process than going to court), but you are under no obligation to choose this method.
Under the regulations, your mover is authorized to collect the following charges when the shipment is delivered:
- 100% of the binding estimate amount or 110% of the non-binding estimate amount, plus
- Charges applicable for any services (i.e. waiting time, extra pickup, or delivery, storage-in-transit) that the customer requested after the contract was executed, that were not included in the estimate, and
- In the event the shuttle service is required, mover may collect for the shuttle charges at delivery - provided that shuttle charges collected at delivery do not exceed fifteen (15%) percent of the total charges due at delivery.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION -
under the governing statute, arbitration is optional and voluntary for the customer but may be mandatory for movers. However, the customer can request arbitration for disputes over $10,000 (as this is a cheaper and easier option than going to court), but the mover may elect to use arbitration or opt out of it as the amount is over $10,000. Mover is obligated to use arbitration requested by customer for disputes under $10,000.
Please remember, the arbitrator's decision is legally binding on both parties and can be enforced in any court having jurisdiction over the dispute.
ARBITRATION PROCEDURES -
- After the move, if a dispute arises that can not be resolved by mover's claims department, a customer can request arbitration by writing to AMSA (American Moving and Storage Association) within 90 calendar days after the mover's last official offer of settlement, or denial of the claim.
- After the mover is informed of the customer's request of arbitration, the mover has 15 working days to review the disputed claim to make sure it meets the arbitration criteria. The arbitrator will forward proper forms and program rules to the customer. The customer (afer receiving forms) has 30 calendar days to complete the forms and return them, along with administrative fee to directly to NAF (National Arbitration Forum) ot initiate the arbitration process.
- NAF then opens the case by sending a copy of the forms and customer's supporting materials to the mover, along with the invoice for remaining portion of the admin fees. Then within 30 calendar days the mover replies to NAF, by sending completed and signed Submission to Arbitration Form along with the all relevant materials from its claim and mover's portion of admin fees.
- NAF forwards a copy of the mover's materials to customer and then referrs the matter to an Arbitrator who begins the review process. The standard written review process is generally completed within 30 days after Arbitrator gets these materials. The Arbitrator then sends his awords to the parties made at the time. The Arbitrator's decision is binding on both parties.
The arbitrator's decision may cover repair, replacement, refund of charges, reimbursement for expenses and/or compensation for damages. However, the program rules DO NOT provide for claims that go beyond mover's liability, which includes but not limited to:
~ punitive damages,
~ loss of wages,
~ emotional distress, or mental anguish.