Knowing Your Rights When Moving: A Guide To The 110 Consumer Protection Rule

Posted on: 1 June 2015

Americans are constantly on the move – relocating from one city or state to another. In 2012, domestic migration was at an all-time high with 16.9 million Americans moving between counties. Moving can be a stressful experience, and most Americans rely on the help of professional movers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted several federal laws to protect those who are moving from being taken advantaged by professional movers. In particular, non-binding estimates are subject to a 110 percent consumer protection rule.

What Is a Non-Binding Estimate?

Under 49 CFR 375 of the federal law, all movers must provide consumers with either a binding or non-binding estimate. A binding estimate will provide you with the exact amount that the professional movers are going to charge for their services whereas a non-binding estimate, which is often more popular among consumers because it must be provided free of charge, will only give a ballpark figure. A non-binding estimate is subject to the 110 percent consumer protection rule.

What Is the 110 Percent Consumer Protection Rule?

To prevent the professional movers from changing their minds or providing you with a falsified ballpark figure, the non-binding estimate is subject to the 110 percent consumer protection rule. Basically, this means that the final cost of the move for the services that has been outlined in the non-binding estimate must not exceed 110% of the quoted amount.

If there are any disagreements regarding the final price after the move, the professional movers must deliver all of your personal items and goods as long as you have paid 110% of the estimated amount. The professional movers must also defer payment on the excess that they are requiring for 30 days, so you can dispute the final bill without having any of your items being held hostage.

Keep in mind that the professional movers can only charge extra for services that were not outlined in the non-binding estimate. For example, if the non-binding estimate quoted you for moving 25 boxes of items, but you actually had 50, the professional movers may request that you pay extra for the cost of moving the additional 25 boxes that were not included in the non-binding estimate.

What Happens If the Movers Hold Your Items Hostage?

Under Section 4210 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act enacted by the FMCSA, the movers face a civil penalty of an amount no less than $10,000 if they hold any of your personal goods and items hostage after you have made the full payment. Each day that the movers hold your personal items and good hostage may constitute as a separate violation.

In addition, the mover's operating authority and DOT registration may be suspended anywhere from 6 months to 12 months if they are found to have falsified any documents or if they have demanded payment for any services that were not performed. The movers may also be imprisoned for up to 5 years depending on the severity of the situation.

You will have to file a complaint or a dispute against the mover with the FMCSA for legal action to be taken. To file a complaint, you will need to have the following 4 documents: the non-binding estimate, the bill of laden, the order of service and the inventory list.


By understanding your rights and how you are protected under the laws enacted by the FMCSA, you can avoid scams and protect yourself financially. The 110 percent consumer protection rule ensures that professional movers do not provide inaccurate estimates to consumers and later charge them with higher fees.