A Vancouver moving company has been hit with more than $14,000 in penalties and costs for deceiving its customers - prompting a company with a similar name to demand better government regulation of the industry to protect consumers and reputable movers.
Canadian Van Lines, also known as Coronation Van Lines, was the target of an investigation by Consumer Protection B.C., the province's consumer watchdog agency.
"We found Canadian Van Lines had engaged in deceptive business practices," said spokesperson Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith in a media release. "Not only was this company knowingly — and repeatedly — making false pick-up and delivery promises to customers, but it also refused to issue required refunds, used non-compliant contracts, misrepresented its business location and failed to provide our inspector with required information."
Through its investigation, Consumer Protection B.C. said it was able to arrange almost $5,100 in consumer refunds. It has also ordered the company to pay $1,500 in inspection costs and has issued a $7,500 administrative penalty against company officials James Mahama (also known as James Johnson, Stephen Hume and James May) and Bakari Gregorio Usseni (also known as Greg Davis).
Canadian Van Lines has an "F" rating with B.C.'s Better Business Bureau and was the subject of a public warning in July.
The BBB had received customer complaints ranging from repeat failures by the company to show up at appointed times, to refusing to complete moves unless additional money was paid.
Company confused with other reputable firm
Canadian Van Lines is not affiliated with Great Canadian Van Lines, which has an "A+" rating with the BBB.
The owner of Great Canadian, Mark Valliant, wants better government oversight of his industry to protect consumers-- and his reputation.
"We've been contacted by a lot of consumers who believe that Canadian Van Lines is us" says Valliant.
"It's very frustrating."
Valliant says the moving industry in BC was deregulated more than two decades ago, and that "anyone can call themselves a mover" these days.
He wants the B.C. government to license and regulate operators.
"It's a no-brainer. It wouldn't be costly for the government to set this up and the consumer would be protected. Ultimately that's what we need."
Alberta resident Christian Seon went to Consumer Protection B.C. for help after he hired Canadian Van Lines to help him move from Manitoba in May 2015.
Weeks after his belongings were supposed to be delivered, he says "I finally learned my items had been left in a Saskatoon storage locker. Not only had I lost $2,100, but I now had to hire a new moving company."
His advice echoes that of Consumer Protection B.C. and Great Canadian Van Lines' Mark Valliant: "Do your research…and be aware of who you're hiring."
Calls to Canadian Van Lines 1-800 number by the CBC were not returned.