I n November last year, Meera Mohanty booked the services of a popular relocation company when she was returning from Orissa to Tamil Nadu. “I hired Agarwal Packers and Movers Ltd. They convinced me to book a separate container, which they said I could lock. But it eventually came with its contents soaking wet. Despite the clear understanding that they would be doing the unpacking — which included reassembling the bed — I ended up doing most of it myself. I have had to buy new mattresses, and spend money on treating wooden furniture. Some books are ruined beyond repair. My written complaint remains unaddressed,” says the journalist.
That same month, Sudhir Upadhyay booked the services of a company with the same name, or almost. He was moving from Pune to Uttarakhand and paid about 60% of the cost upfront. The company said his household goods and car would reach Uttarakhand in 3-4 days. “I picked Agarwal Packers and Movers - Bade Bhaiya,” says the founder-CEO of travel company Travstore. Upadhyay says the issue started right from the packing stage. “Halfway through packing, they claimed the products wouldn’t fit the cargo vehicle and a container had to be booked. They raised the price at this stage. Instead of a dedicated container, the goods came in a shared one. Several items were broken or damaged.”
In relocation services, the company is responsible for packing, transporting and unpacking the goods at the new location. As with Mohanty, in Upadhyay’s case too, the unpacking team never arrived. He had to hire workers. “I spent over ₹10,000 for repairs to my car because it was damaged in transit,” he says.
A search on social media and online discussion portals shows hundreds of such complaints filed against packers and movers during the lockdown. Many of them are against the company that Mohanty booked. The complaints remain unanswered. Upadhyay, like many others, spoke to several personnel in the company and posted complaints online, but there was no response.
According to Rajesh Gurumurthy, Senior Director at Jones Lang LaSalle, when companies moved to flexi work models, many people moved to their hometowns, so the services of packers and movers became vital. “People have faced challenges such as high freight costs, delayed delivery, poor handling, interstate transit regulations, theft, low quality packaging, and so on,” he says.
Meera S*, a working professional based in Orissa, has been chasing several teams at Desk to Desk Courier & Cargo, popularly known at DTDC, for the last four months. “A laptop was couriered from Kolkata to Orissa in October and I paid the risk surcharge as well. On delivery, I noticed that the body was broken. While they have been responding to complaints, no action has been taken yet and I am running between departments,” she says, adding that she hopes the issue is resolved soon.
- pick a company without proper research
- rely only on word-of-mouth
- pay the full amount in advance
- allow the packers and movers to load and unload in your absence
- pick companies that offer below-market rates
- Courtesy: JLL
The pandemic has disrupted businesses and ways of working. People have relocated to be with family, those who lost jobs have returned to their hometowns, many others have had to move to different cities or to lower-rent homes. The demand for relocation services is at its peak. And complaints against them are also rising. The consumercomplaints.in forum has over 700 complaints against Agarwal Packers & Movers Ltd., 96 against Chennai Packers & Movers, among others. Complaints range from damaged goods and delayed delivery to fraud and overcharging.
Navneet Agarwal, Director at Agarwal Packers and Movers Ltd., says the primary issue is that several players are impersonating his company. “A Google search, based on location, shows up local listings and unorganised players using our name. We have an ongoing case with Google for the last eight years regarding trademark and verification concerns.” What about genuine complaints of delayed deliveries and damaged goods? Agarwal says the claims process is up on the company website. “When the lockdown hit, our drivers and crew members left the cities and vehicles were stranded on highways and in yards. As we had pre-booked orders, we had to arrange for teams to get the job done. Compensating for damages and repairs are a part of the process and we have continued doing it during the pandemic.”
The legal route
Clients have the right to sue packers and movers, says V. Kuberan, advocate at Chennai-based Rank Associates. “Even though there is no specific law governing them, the common law remedy will arise under the provisions of the Carriage of Goods Act/ Carriage by Road Act/Sea Act/Air Act,” he says, adding, “The consignment note/ waybill/ lorry receipt/ contract of carriage will contain the terms and conditions, which need to be looked into for individual cases. The liability of the common carrier is limited to ten times the freight paid or payable, provided it does not exceed the value of the declared goods.”
In the case of Delhi Assam Roadways Corporation vs. L. Sharma (FA No 107 of 2001), the National Consumer Disputes Redressal commission made two important points: one, that the transporter is liable for negligence, and second, consumer courts can award damages in such cases. Before filing a case, it is mandatory for the consumer to issue a notice as required under Section 10 of the Carriers Act. Experts say that you can complain before the insurance ombudsman and the advantage of filing a case here is that the process of dispute resolution is quicker and simpler, but the packer and mover will not be a party here. However, you have to show proof of payment towards insurance. Also, before you file that case, you need to check the policy’s terms. Or else, it is better to file a case in consumer court.
Keep in mind
Before you book the services of any company, Gurumurthy suggests asking for their licence. “Verify if they have one before signing the contract and handing over your valuables. Secondly, find out if the packers and movers are accredited and look for affiliations like OMNI, FIDI, IAM, Worldwide ERC and BSI.”
Reading the terms and conditions and the fine print is important, as is the company’s policy on Replacement Value Protection (RVP). For those who intend to return to their city of work, he suggests they opt for self-storage facilities. “These provide secure personal storage for short periods and the long term too. As most companies have decided to continue work from home till March 2021, this is a viable way to save on home rentals,” says Gurumurthy.
* name changed