Moving home is a cumbersome process. Inadequate communication with the home mover can result not only in frustration but can also give rise to a lot of unexpected expenses. A Consumer Council’s survey of 20 home-removal companies revealed an enormous difference in charges. Consumers should be aware that apart from charging on a per piece basis, movers may impose a wide range of extra charges, such as moving on a public holiday; moving bulky or heavy items that exceed the weight and size restrictions; furniture assembling and disassembling; and garbage disposal, etc. This makes it difficult to make a comprehensive comparison from a rough service quotation. Consumers are advised to plan carefully in advance and to seek advice from their friends and relatives who have used a home removal service for using a reliable and reputable company. They should also find out the details of the removal process and the additional charges that may be involved. Home removal companies also have the responsibility to clearly list the details of their services in their contracts and receipts to avoid disputes with their customers.
In August and September this year, the Council sent out a questionnaire to 106 home removal companies to collect information on price quotation enquiries, payment methods, minimum charges, and compensation arrangements for damaged or lost items. The response from the industry was however disappointing with only 20 of the companies responding, representing less than 1/5 response rate. Majority of the companies (18 companies) provided free onsite quotations while 18 of them also provided online quotations, of which 5 would thereafter verify the charges again onsite with the prospective customer and such service is an ideal approach for the industry to enhance its service quality.
In general, home removal charges are based on the type and number of items but over half (13) of the companies set minimum charges, from $600 to $3,500. Even for some common household electrical appliances, the charges were found to be widely diverse. For instance, moving a 37” TV set could vary by 11 times from $50 to $600, and moving a 3-door refrigerator could vary by 4 times, from $100 to $500.
Most (15) of the companies requested for a deposit in advance from $200 to $1,000, or 10% to 50% of the total service charge with the remaining charge to be settled on the date of removal, while the rest of the 5 companies allowed consumers to pay the whole sum upon the completion of removal.
The survey found that all companies had many surcharges and the difference is so huge that consumers must not disregard them lightly. For instance, for service on weekends and public holidays, some companies would additionally charge $500 to more than $1,200, or 10% of the total service charge.
6 companies limit the weight of each carton to 20 to 25 kg; otherwise, they would levy a surcharge of $20 to $30, or double the charge per carton. If the customer needs bulky furniture to be disassembled and reassembled, 6 companies charge $100 to $2,000 per piece, while for disposal of furniture or the like, depending on the size and weight of the item, the extra charge is from $20 to $5,000 per piece. Consumers should also take note that if their residing units require transfer to another lift at the podium to reach their units, over half (12) of the companies would levy extra charges.
In the case of buildings without lifts, all companies levy extra charges based on the number of floors but a floor is defined very differently with a company counting 5 steps as one floor while another company counting 19 steps as one floor. Similarly, various calculation methods are used to compute extra charges for items requiring staircase handling. For 11 companies, it is based on the size and weight of the items, ranging from $1.2 to $1,000 a piece for each floor; 4 companies add 15% to 20% of the total charge as an surcharge; and another company charges an additional $500 per floor on top of the total charge. For items requiring special moving techniques, such as a grand piano, 2 companies will not provide any removal service, while 14 others charge an extra $100 to $5,000 a piece for each floor.
Based on the information collected and the average family’s home removal needs, the Council put forward 2 simulated households, both requiring surcharge services, as examples to compare prices in the survey. The first simulated scenario involved a 2-member household moving from Shatin to Mong Kok, requiring walking up 5 floors with 24 pieces of furniture and electrical products, 8 cartons and 10 plastic boxes. The prices quoted by the companies were from $2,800 to $14,508, showing a significant difference of more than fourfold. The staircase handling surcharge was 30% to 50% of the total service charge.
Another simulated scenario involved a 4-member family moving from North Point to Tsuen Wan, requiring the transfer to another lift at the podium with 37 pieces of furniture and electrical products, 10 cartons, 15 plastic boxes, 2 red-white-blue bags and 2 traveller bags. The quotations varied from $4,545 to $16,215, a difference of some 2.5 times. It is worth noting that the additional charges involving podium lift transfer varied widely from one company to another, ranging from 4% to 22% of the total charge.
For inadvertently damaged or loss items during removal, the handling varied among these companies. 15 of them offered compensation among which some would provide maximum amount from $300 to $1,000 for each item/carton. Some companies would base the maximum compensation on 10% to 30% of the total service charges while 1 would compensate in accordance with the weight of the item with the highest of $10 per kilogram. For the remaining companies, some would base on the actual value of the item and the insurance coverage in determining the compensation while 1 company unequivocally stated that no compensation will be provided for damaged or loss items.
Furthermore, some home removal companies may not offer services for certain items, such as furniture embedded in the wall, custom-made furniture fixed in position by glass glue, valuable items and sizable pets.
When choosing a home removal company, consumers should pay heed to the following:
- Always request removal companies to conduct an onsite inspection to provide a more accurate price quotation, related surcharges and contract terms;
- Find out about the arrangements in the event of inclement weather and evaluate the need to purchase insurance;
- Make sure you understand the conditions and procedure for handling compensation for damage or loss of items during removal, as well as the time period required for compensation.
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