Belongings held 'hostage': Man pays 2 moving companies to get stuff to new home

A former Winnipeg resident has some advice for anyone who needs to hire a moving van company: do your research if you want to avoid a bumpy ride.

'I felt like a sucker': after dealing with company penalized by consumer protection agency

"That should have been the biggest alarm bell," said Christian Seon, when the moving company asked for full payment before delivery. (CBC)

A former Winnipeg resident has some advice for anyone who needs to hire a moving van company: do your research if you want to avoid a bumpy ride.

Christian Seon hired Coronation Van Lines to move his belongings from Winnipeg to Calgary in 2015, but his packed-up house only made it to Saskatoon before he had to pay another company to move it the rest of the way.

"I felt very taken advantage of, I felt like a sucker," Seon said. "I felt like I had trust and faith in people, in a company... So I was very angry."

The saga began after Seon got a job transfer to Calgary, leaving only about three weeks to move.

"First thing I did, being a millennial, was go online," Seon explained.  His internet search led him to the website of Canadian Van Lines, a company incorporated in B.C. as Coronation Van Lines (2013) Inc. and operating across Canada.
The company operating Canadian Van Lines filed for dissolution in December 2016. (Canadian Van Lines)

He submitted a form online to get a quote for the moving cost and within 15 minutes got a call back, he said. He decided to go with Canadian Van Lines because the price was a couple hundred dollars cheaper than other companies' quotes.

"The reviews online weren't bad. I believe on Google reviews it was like a 3.7 out of five," Seon said. "Everything seemed to be on the up and up."

Seon signed a contract with the company for $2,093 and the move was scheduled for April 25 in Winnipeg, with delivery in Calgary on May 1.

Pay half upfront

"The agreement was that I would pay half upfront when the company came to pick up my belongings, and then I would pay the other half upon delivery," Seon explained.

The first sign that something might be going wrong, he said, was on moving day when the packing was underway. "I get a call from the representative at Canadian Van Lines asking for the second half of the money."

He agreed.

"So essentially instead of the agreement being pay half upfront, half upon delivery, I paid half at the time of agreement and the other half as my stuff was being packed up in Winnipeg.

A former Winnipeg resident has some advice for anyone who needs to hire a moving van company: do your research if you want to avoid a bumpy ride. 2:44

"That should have been the biggest alarm bell and I should have shut it down there. But half my stuff was already packed up and on a truck," Seon said.

At that point he had less than a week left to move to Calgary and start his new job.

"I felt like I didn't really have a choice."

When May 1 arrived, the delivery in Calgary didn't happen.

Seon said for days he kept asking Canadian Van Lines where his belongings were.

"They took my stuff all the way to Saskatoon. According to them they had another move in Calgary that they needed to make, and they had to make a choice. It was my stuff or this other person's stuff."

Seon said he then hired a different mover in Saskatoon and paid him $850 to get the stuff out of the storage locker and deliver it to Calgary.

'Hold my stuff hostage'

"It's never a good feeling," said Seon. "It gets even worse when you think about. I paid somebody to hold my stuff hostage."

He filed a complaint with the Manitoba Consumer Protection Office and later, one to Alberta's consumer investigation office.

The Manitoba CPO tried to mediate a settlement with the B.C.-based company, which promised a refund for Seon on several occasions. When the refund didn't materialize, the CPO sent the file to BC's consumer protection office which was able to secure a full refund for Seon — a year after his move.

"If it wasn't for Consumer Protection B.C., I'd probably be sitting here a lot angrier, and a lot more sour and bitter about the whole experience," Seon said.

Turns out, other people had complained to Consumer Protection B.C. about Canadian Van Lines.  After the B.C. investigation, Coronation Van Lines — doing business as Canadian Van Lines — refunded a total of nearly $5,100 to five customers, including Seon's refund of about $2,100.

Last December, Consumer Protection B.C. announced the refunds along with a penalty of $7,500 against Canadian Van Lines for deceiving customers and another $1,500 for inspection costs, for a total of about $14,000 the company was required to pay.
Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith at Consumer Protection B.C. said Canadian Van Lines knowingly and repeatedly made false pickup and delivery promises to customers. (Consumer Protection BC)

"We take these violations very seriously and we wanted consumers to know about it," said Tatiana Chabeaux-Smith, Consumer Protection B.C. spokesperson.

"We determined that they knowingly and repeatedly made false promises to consumers," she said.

Earlier this month, the B.C. agency said the company had not paid the fine and inspection costs.

Company dissolved

When CBC News called the company's phone line this month, the number was no longer in service.

On December 14, 2016, a few days after Consumer Protection B.C. issued its news release about the penalties, Coronation Van Lines (2013) Inc. filed an application for dissolution under B.C.'s Business Corporations Act.

Tracy Fitzner is another former customer who hired the company in 2015 to move from Fort McMurray to Leduc, Alberta.

"It's been an extremely frustrating process for me," Fitzner said.

She and her husband paid $6,000 up front towards the cost of the move but she said a few days before moving day, Canadian Van Lines contacted the Fitzners to reschedule. That was the beginning of a dispute that eventually saw the Fitzners win a court judgment against the company for the $6,000 plus costs. The company did pay back some of the money, she said, adding that more than $2,000 is still outstanding.

Licensing and regulation

The experience has left Fitzner with the view there should be a system of licensing and regulation specifically for moving companies.

"I think that if they were governed differently and had to be licensed and regulated, maybe we wouldn't run into these problems," Fitzner said.

Besides turning to the courts, consumers who find themselves in a dispute with a moving company can register a complaint with the Canadian Association of Movers (CAM), a voluntary industry group representing about 400 companies.

In 2016, CAM fielded 183 complaints — 150 against companies that were not CAM members and 33 against member companies, said president Patrick Greaney. If the complaint is about a member company, CAM will help resolve the issue.

The association provides a certification program for its members as well as good practice guidelines.

Now that his case is over, Seon said he's willing to speak publicly because similar problems have happened to other people.

"I don't want other people to have that same shame, that same embarrassment," he said.

"If something happens in my life and I have an experience that I can share with people and let people know to help them, and to save some pain and aggravation, then I have no problem talking about it."

The Consumer Protection BC news release of last December noted that Canadian Van Lines should not be confused with the similarly-named moving company Great Canadian Van Lines.


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