Watch out for hidden ‘extras’ when moving house, watchdog warns

Consumer Council had 22 complaints last year about home moving companies charging as much as 10 times their quote

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 12:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 March, 2014, 5:10am

If the price quoted for your home removal service seems too good to be true, it probably is.

This was the warning from the Consumer Council yesterday after it received complaints of customers being charged up to 10 times what they were initially quoted for the service.

The watchdog said unscrupulous operators sometimes waited until all of their customers' belongings had been loaded into their vans before demanding the inflated price.

Citing 22 related complaints received last year, it said some companies would claim there was more furniture than expected, while others pointed to the "unexpected" presence of staircases or slopes that they said caused extra work.

In one case, a person was quoted HK$600 but was asked for HK$6,000 when all the household goods were already in the removal company's vehicle.

Police were called but the complainant still had to pay HK$1,800 - triple the initial quote.

The council said most finally agreed to meet the demands as they had little bargaining power against workers who refused to remove their furniture from the truck if they did not pay up.

Professor Michael Hui King-man, chairman of the council's publicity and community relations committee, said many clients knew little about the companies, which made the complaints hard to pursue.

"Some do not even know the name of the company. What they have in hand is a telephone number stated on ads put on walls along the street," he said.

To protect themselves, consumers are advised to employ reputable companies and secure written agreements from them.

"Write down as many details as possible, including the price, a complete inventory of all items to be removed and the quantity involved, and factors such as staircases and slopes that could affect the removal process," Hui suggested.

Customers could also provide pictures of the furniture to give companies an idea of their size and weight.

Some moving companies may be in breach of the amended Trade Descriptions Ordinance, the council said, which bans misleading omissions of information and pressuring people into payment.

The council yesterday also announced the results of tests on five models of portable clothes dryers as relative humidity exceeded 80 per cent this week.

Four of the dryers work by generating warm air, with a fan heater inside a balloon-like cover. Clothes are hung on racks shielded by the cover.

Makers of three dryers claimed one drying cycle takes three hours, while another recommended drying for six hours.

There was no recommended drying time for the fifth model, which used a garment bag with embedded heating wires.

Results for all were disappointing, the council said. None could dry the clothes after one drying cycle, with 20 to 41 per cent of moisture remaining in the clothes.

The garment-bag model was worse - the clothes were barely half dry after three hours of drying.

To speed up the drying process, consumers could put fewer clothes into the dryers, the council said.