Moving Company Laws in Canada: Know Your Rights Before Your Move

The problematic thing about hiring a moving company in Canada is all the uncertainty that comes along with it. At best, everything will be moved on time, without damages, and for a competitive price. At worst, you can find yourself without your stuff, your money, or in a lengthy battle that can drag out long past your move. We mentioned it in previous posts, and the fact still remains, the moving industry is one of the top ten complained about in consumer protection agencies and on Better Business Bureau (BBB).

That’s why when planning your residential move, before you even consider what moving company to hire, you should know your rights as a consumer, as well as what a moving company can and cannot do as a business. This will help you see the warning signs early in your research process, and hopefully help you avoid hiring a bad moving company, ultimately easing the stress of your move.

Check out this Global News story about moving company scams in Canada, and what to look out for.

Who regulates Canadian moving companies?

One of the big reasons there are so many shady and fly-by-night moving companies is because unlike other home services there isn’t a single government-run body that regulates and accredits these businesses. That’s why virtually anyone with a truck can claim they are a moving company and start advertising their services. As a result, the number of moving companies has skyrocketed in the last decade. Without a regulatory body to ensure customer protection from the business end, homeowners dealing with furniture movers are protected under their provincial consumer rights.

It is only in the recent years that the Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs has begun outlying some regulations for how a moving company should operate. Through involvement of moving industry professionals, consumer group representatives, and government officials, the office put out two essential guidelines for businesses and consumers, regarding best practices in the industry.

The office of Consumer Affairs, Industry Canada has developed good practice guidelines for reputable movers.

The office of Consumer Affairs also put together this user-friendly consumer checklist page with tips and guides to help you throughout your move.

If you refer to nothing else when getting moving quotes, read the information in these two documents to give you some idea of what to expect from the moving process and hiring a company. While they are not officially laws, many of the points listed in the good practice guideline and the consumer checklist are considered a must-have for reputable moving companies. Let’s have a look at some of these and other things to consider when getting quotes. 

Getting A Moving Quote: What You Should Know When Picking Companies

  • Always be sure to check exactly how you are protected under your province’s consumer laws. Consumer Protection Ontario has a whole website dedicated to selecting a trusted moving company.
  • Check if the company has good standing with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and Homestars. While most businesses will have some bad or negative reviews, you want to see how the moving company dealt with customer complaints, and what aspect of their service homeowners complain most often about. 
  • Find out the name and policy number of the insurance provider for the moving company. While this may not protect your stuff, you want to make sure the business is legitimate and has insurance. If the company offers Replacement Value Protection for damages or lost items, find out how much it costs, and what exactly the moving company is willing to be liable for.
  • Cooling off period: Depending on whether you agreed to your contract in person, over the phone, or online there is a period of time during which you can cancel the contract without explanation. You can usually cancel a moving contract within 7-10 days of signing. Even if your upcoming move is within that time of period, you can still cancel the contract but the mover may ask for reimbursement for any services already provided.
  • Written estimates: A moving company must provide you with a written estimate, whether printed or e-mailed, that will include the number of boxes to be moved, size and value, additional flat costs or costs per hour, terms of payment, as well as pick-up and delivery times.
  • Shipping weight: A mover must use a certified scale to determine the weight of your shipment. If the weight exceeds the estimate by 10% the mover can perform a re-weigh of the shipment. Either way, a good mover will be sure to communicate with you throughout the process. 
  • Losses and damages: A mover must acknowledge, in writing, within 30 days, the receipt of your claim and attempt to resolve the matter within 120 days of initial receipt of your claim. You should submit any claims for lost or damaged items within 30 days for local moves and 60 days after delivery for long distance moves.

Can a mover hold my stuff for extra payment?

A common scenario in the battle between homeowners and moving companies: the moving company gives a quote and the contract is signed. On the day of the move the company loads the stuff but refuses to unload or release it because “extra charges” have been incurred, and the customer now has to pay up if they ever want to see their stuff again.

A mover legally cannot hold your stuff for additional payment. If additional charges are incurred, in most provinces a moving company cannot charge more than an additional 10% on the initially agreed price.

This is provided that the mover can also justify the sudden increase in charges, whether it was additional services, or equipment required. The weight of the shipment should be determined before the move, and not change or be priced differently after the move started. 

How to file a complaint against a moving company in Canada

Always try to negotiate with the moving company tand resolve the matter first, if you cannot resolve the matter directly or are unsatisfied with the resolution the company is providing you, you may want to consider launching a BBB complaint, or going directly to your provincial consumer protection office. Because the number of complaints against moving companies in Canada is high, consumer protection offices are taking these cases more seriously in recent years, trying to eliminate shady and fly-by-night companies.

Can you sue a Canadian moving company?

If all else has failed, and you cannot find a solution, or the company is refusing to answer or comply with your demands, you can take them to small claims court. You can sue for damages totaling 25 000$ or less, including property damage, personal injury, or breach of contract. Keep in mind that this should be your absolute last resort or if there is absolutely no response from the company. Going through the legal process can end up costing more time and money than your whole move was supposed to.

Use the guidelines established by The Office of Consumer Affairs, as well as the tips we provided when considering which moving company to go with. Remember, you should get at least 3-4 moving quotes, and knowing exactly what to expect from trustworthy companies can help you weed out the unfavorable ones. The point is not to just get quotes from whichever company, by the time a company’s representative visits your home you should be confident that their services match your needs, so that you’re picking from a pool of good qualified, companies.

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