The Better Business Bureau is warning people about disreputable moving companies that give quotes over the phone, then demand more money, or take weeks longer than promised to complete the move.

"I just couldn’t believe how long it was taking," said Bradley Claydon, 24. Claydon decided to move his young family from Ontario to Alberta to get more permanent work.

He used, a website where customers enter details of their move, and different moving companies reply with estimates.

Claydon said his parents’ move to Alberta a year earlier had gone badly and he didn’t want to repeat their experience.

"Pricing was a big thing for me (but) I was trying not to go with the cheapest one because I’d be losing quality." 

Claydon chose CK Moving, a company based in Delta, B.C., but pursuing customers moving from Ontario to Alberta.

CK Moving gave Claydon a price based on what he entered online. But he said the price changed once the movers picked up his belongings.

Protect yourself

  • Contact BBB and Canadian Association of Movers to assess companies
  • Get at least three estimates in writing by someone who has inspected the items
  • Phone estimates should include thorough discussion about what's in each room and if the cost covers unpacking, storage and claims settlement
  • Ensure movers are aware of special items or other impediments that could affect estimate
  • Move valuables such as jewellery or artwork yourself
  • Before signing contract, check to see if company is bonded and insured.
  • Ensure you have moving insurance with replacement value protection not depreciated value.
  • Find out if mover is certified by WCB to avoid paying for injured employees.
  • Take photos of your possessions

"They got my stuff, they brought it to the scale, they said it was overweight by almost 2,000 pounds I think it was." That increased the bill by $300, money he hadn’t budgeted, Claydon said.

Price hike only the beginning

But that was just the beginning of Claydon’s problems. The family arrived in Edmonton, but the moving truck didn’t.

After the delivery was a week late Claydon began calling and emailing the moving company.

In an exchange of emails with CK Moving that spanned several more weeks, he got a variety of explanations: the company was waiting for a truck; the truck had broken down; it was making deliveries in Manitoba, then Saskatchewan.

"It was getting colder out, all our winter gear was on the moving truck…I don’t have a ton of money so I can’t go out and do all this shopping to make up for what I don’t have."

In the end Claydon’s delivery took more than two months.

In the meantime, the family had replaced many of its belongings and was left with duplicates. "Two microwaves, two toaster ovens, and just a lot of stuff I didn't need and had to throw out," Claydon said.

Complaints about moving companies common

"I think certainly one of the first things people should do is check out whether the company they’re dealing with is in fact a Better Business Bureau member," said Paul Wielens, CEO of Highland Moving, and former chair of the BBB in Edmonton.

"Within the industry there are rogue movers. It’s been documented time and time again.  It puts us all in the same pot and that’s unfortunate."

The BBB in Canada receives over 7,000 complaints about movers every year. It gives CK Moving a rating of "F" for failing to respond to or address complaints. 

CBC News tried repeatedly to contact CK Moving management by phone and email.

Eventually we were told by a receptionist that Boris Collins, the manager with whom Bradley Claydon had dealt, had left the company, and that it was unlikely another manager or owner would be willing to speak.

 "I don't know, we’ve had other stories and it’s just something we’re not interested in doing," said April Mott.

Bradley Claydon did get a 15 per cent reduction in his final bill, but said it isn’t good enough. "I don’t feel they should profit from my move at all. When stuff happens, usually a company has a back-up plan, right? Two months to solve it?"

Claydon now realizes he may not hear from anyone at CK Moving either. However, he hopes other people won’t make the same mistake he did. "Make sure they're a well-known name.  I went with a company no-one knew it bit me in the end."

The Alberta Government recommends consumers get three written estimates from companies that belong to the BBB and to the Canadian Association of Movers, and to make sure they’re insured for full replacement value in the event something gets lost or damaged during the move.