Hamilton woman is in 'pure shock' after $3,600 moving bill
The Better Business Bureau has 'lots of concerns' about Moonstar Van Lines
When Alicia Seed was moving from Dundas to St. Catharines, she knew it wouldn't be free, but she certainly didn't expect to arrive at her new home with a $3,600 bill and none of her possessions.
The 23-year-old McMaster University student and single mom says her items, which include her two-and-a-half-year-old's birth certificate and social insurance number, were held hostage unless she paid the bill.
"I didn't do my research enough," Seed said. "It's been absolutely horrifying."
Seed said she originally looked at quotes from four different companies and ended up hiring Moonstar Van Lines.
Documents obtained by CBC News show Seed agreed to pay $625 for her move. That included her $100 deposit and would cover roughly 500 pounds worth of items.
Seed says Moonstar Van Lines brought on a different company, Move Me Again, to carry out the move.
The movers arrived and Seed says half way into moving her belongings, they told her the price of her move would vary based on the weight of her items. (A similar warning also appears on the original invoice.)
She says she agreed and the movers kept loading everything into the truck.
The new form, which Seed says she received after all furniture was loaded into the vehicle, featured two sections — one unfilled section for the actual weight of the items and an option for a flat rate of 7,000 pounds.
Seed says the movers told her to sign the form, so she did. "I had no idea what 7,000 pounds looks like."
Then the bill arrived but her possessions didn't.
Seed says she received a phone call soon after the movers left saying that she owed $3,638.60. If the company didn't get the money, they wouldn't deliver her items to her new place.
"I'm a single mom. I just moved in with my boyfriend. When I got that number, I was in pure shock," Seed said.
"I'm not paying $3,000 for a $600 job."
Seed says the truck contained her and her daughter's social insurance numbers, birth certificates and other personal information.
"All they have to do is open one box to find all that ... they're holding my items basically hostage," she said.
"You're supposed to trust your home with everything you had, and I did that, and I trusted my movers with my home."
Seed tried contacting the police but says officers told her by signing the contract, it would have to be pursued through the civil courts. She also called Equifax to warn them she could be a victim of identity fraud.
Moving company has troubled past
Patrick McKeen, president and CEO of the Central Ontario Better Business Bureau (BBB), said Seed's experience is not an isolated incident with the company.
Moonstar Van Lines and Greenway Moving are listed under the same entry at the BBB. And, he says Move Me Again shares a listing with a company called Roadway Movers.
"Businesses will try and change their name in order to carry on these kinds of practices as long as they can until they build up a bad reputation and have taken advantage of a bunch of people, and then they try and change their name to start a clean slate," he said.
Moonstar Van Lines did not respond to requests for comment. Move Me Again and Greenway Moving declined to comment.
Documents obtained by CBC News shows Moonstar and Greenway are both owned by Serap Akyaz. Move Me Again is owned by Cemal Ozturk.
McKeen said BBB has "lots of concerns" about the situation.
"There's a lot of complaint activity on that file, so much so that at the beginning of August, our team identified the need for an investigation to investigate a pattern of complaints," he told CBC.
"When that investigation was done, we asked for some comments back from the business which they haven't provided any insight on, but we have identified there is a pattern with this business."
Moonstar and Greenway have 18 complaints on their BBB profile, 15 of which are from 2020.
McKeen noted some of the complaints revolve around customer services issues, not following contracts and issues related to the weight of furniture.
He said it is illegal for a moving company to withhold furniture until payment. He also said increasing the price of a job by more than 10 per cent after it is already complete contravenes the Consumer Protection Act.
Data obtained by CBC News from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services shows the province has received a total of seven complaints about the three companies, six of which came this year.
'We've essentially given up'
The Canadian Association of Movers (CAM) doesn't list any of the companies under its directory of verified movers.
"I can confirm that Moonstar, Move Me Again, and Greenway Moving are not Canadian Association of Movers members, and never will be, as they are the antithesis of what a Certified Professional Mover should be," read an email from CAM president Nancy Irvine.
"We have dozens and dozens of complaints about these three outfits and their shameful business practices."
Seed says she wouldn't pay Moonstar the $3,600. Instead she said she paid roughly $5,000 to buy new furniture. During that time, Seed's daughter stayed with her parents.
Eventually Seed's stepfather, she says, paid Moonstar $525 to have access to her items. Then Seed paid $1,000 to hire another moving company to pick up her items from the warehouse and bring them to her mother's home on Sept. 10.
She said most of her items were scuffed, damaged, bent or dirty after the move.
"They even brought along mice as well, so that was fun... We've essentially given up. A lot of my stuff is destroyed and that's just the way it is."