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Arbitration Program for Interstate Moves

What is arbitration? Arbitration is an alternative to going to court when you have a dispute with your carrier that cannot be resolved to your satisfaction. A team of retired judges and other experts working with our program will review information about the dispute, submitted from both the shipper (you) and the carrier, and render a decision that is binding. Arbitration does not use legal rules of evidence and is not conducted in a courtroom; it is designed to offer an alternative to the higher costs and longer process involved in filing a lawsuit and going to court.

When is arbitration used? When a shipper (you) cannot resolve a claim with the carrier who transported his/her household goods on an interstate shipment, and if the claim is a result of 1) loss or damage involving items contained in the shipment, or 2) additional charges that were billed to you by your carrier after your shipment was delivered, then arbitration can be used. Disputes regarding charges that were collected by your carrier when your shipment was delivered are not subject to mandatory arbitration, only those additional charges that were billed by your carriers after your goods were delivered are subject to mandatory arbitration.

Beginning in 1996, interstate movers were required, as a condition of maintaining their registration, to offer neutral binding arbitration on interstate shipments for individual shippers as a means of resolving certain types of disputed claims.

 In 2006, pursuant to the Household Goods Movers Oversight and Reform Act, the requirements were expanded to include both:

 1) Disputed loss and damage claims, and

2) Disputes regarding additional charges that are billed to the shipper after the shipment was delivered.

 Under these regulations, two types of disputes fall within the statutory requirements for arbitration for interstate household goods movers:

Disputed Claims for Loss & Damage to the Articles Transported in the Shipment A dispute regarding the settlement of a claim for loss or damage to the articles contained in the shipment.This type of dispute is subject to the mandatory arbitration requirement if the amount of the dispute is $10,000 or less.
Disputes Regarding Additional Charges Billed to the Shipper by the Mover AFTER THE DELIVERY of the Shipment A dispute regarding additional charges that you billed to the shipper after the shipment was delivered.This type of dispute is subject to the mandatory arbitration requirement if the amount of the dispute is $10,000 or less.

About the arbitration process Before you can initiate the arbitration process you must exhaust your remedies through the carrier’s regular claims process and have received the carrier’s final offer to you. You must file a claim for loss or damage with your carrier within nine months of the delivery of your goods. The carrier has 30 days after receiving your claim to acknowledge it, and has 120 days to pay, deny, make a settlement offer or tell you the status of your claim and the reason for any delay. Your claim for disputed charges must be filed within 180 days of receiving your carrier’s invoice. Disputes involving other types of claims may be arbitrated only if both the carrier and the shipper agree to use the program to resolve the claim.

Who Sponsors This Program?

 The American Movers Conference (AMC) is a national trade association representing carriers and agents of the household goods moving industry. AMC is sponsoring this dispute settlement/arbitration program so that its member carriers may offer an effective, fair and expeditious way to solve disagreements in connection with loss and damage claims on household goods.

Who Actually Administers The Arbitration Procedures?

 The program will be administered by the American Arbitration Association (AAA), an independent non-governmental organization, not affiliated with either the American Movers Conference or its member household goods carriers. The AAA was chosen to run the program because it is recognized as the leading independent arbitration authority in the country. It is a public service, non-profit agency with 33 offices nationwide, which is dedicated exclusively to the resolution of disputes of all kinds.

Has This Program Been Approved By An Outside Agency?

 The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), which regulates the interstate operations of household goods carriers, has approved this program. By law, the ICC is responsible for overseeing the functioning of any approved dispute settlement program.

What Are The Legal Effects Of An ICC-Approved Program?

 The Household Goods Transportation Act was passed by Congress on October 15, 1980. It provided guidelines to permit carriers to establish dispute settlement/arbitration programs, subject to ICC approval. in addition, the Act contains certain provisions relating to the legal effects on shippers (consumers) and carriers. You should carefully consider the legal effects of the following provisions of the Act before you decide whether or not to use the program.

To encourage carriers to participate in arbitration programs, the Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980 provides that where a court action is instituted to resolve a dispute between a shipper (consumer) and a carrier concerning the transportation of household goods, reasonable attorney fees must be awarded the shipper:

IF the shipper submitted the claim to the carrier within 120 days after the date the shipment was delivered or the day on which the delivery was scheduled, whichever is later; AND IF the shipper prevailed in the court action. in addition, one of the following must be applicable:

  • There was no ICC-approved dispute settlement program available for use by the shipper to resolve the dispute.
  • A decision resolving the dispute was not rendered within 60 days of receipt of written notification of the dispute or an extension thereof as provided under the rules of the program, or under 49 USC 11711 (b)(8).
  • A court action is instituted to enforce a decision rendered under the dispute settlement program.

Additionally, to discourage shippers from filing non-meritorious claims in court, the Household Goods Transportation Act provides that a carrier may be awarded reasonable attorney fees where a shipper has brought court action in “bad faith,” either:

  • after a decision has been issued under an approved dispute settlement program; or
  • after a shipper has instituted a proceeding under such a program but before a decision resolving the dispute is rendered, provided the dispute is finally resolved within the 60-day period allowed or a valid extension is granted as stipulated by the program.

When Would I Use This Arbitration Program?

 This program was established for the settlement of disputes involving loss and damage claims on interstate shipments of household goods. Under ICC regulations, a claim for loss and damage to your household goods during a move must be filed with the carrier within nine months after delivery. However, the above mentioned legal effects may be affected by the date a claim is filed. The carrier must acknowledge any claim within 30 days of receipt, and within 120 days must deny or make an offer in settlement of your claim. If you and the carrier cannot resolve a dispute in connection with your claim, you may request arbitration procedures administered by the AAA. First, however, be sure you have exhausted your remedies through the regular claims process and the carrier has made its final offer.

How Does The Arbitration Program Work?

 This arbitration is voluntary and optional, and neither the carrier nor you-the shipper-is committed to arbitrate a claim dispute until both complete and sign the prescribed forms to initiate the procedures. Either you or the carrier may request arbitration from the AAA.

However, neither party may force the other to arbitrate a disagreement. Arbitration is voluntary, and each party must agree to it. If a carrier does not agree to take a dispute to arbitration, the reason for that refusal will be clearly stated.

After both carrier and shipper agree to arbitrate and sign the official “Submission to Arbitrate” form, they appoint the AAA administrator of the arbitration. The AAA then appoints an arbitrator from its national panel of arbitrators who will render a decision that is legally binding on both the carrier and the shipper. AAA arbitrators are trained and experienced volunteers from all walks of life. They are never in any way connected with either party in a dispute they are arbitrating.

The arbitrator’s decision is based on all statements of fact and documents relevant to the claim. The standard procedure is “desk arbitration” where the arbitrator conducts the arbitration on the basis of written documents submitted by both parties. Prior to the arbitration, both parties are provided with copies of everything that the arbitrator will base his decision on.

An optional oral hearing of the evidence in a dispute can also be arranged at an additional cost where both the carrier and the shipper agree to the oral hearing and the date, time and location.

How Much Does Arbitration Cost?

 The cost of Arbitration varies based on the claim amount. You can learn more about the costs following this link.

What Can An Arbitrator Award And What Is The Legal Status of That Decision?

 The arbitrator may grant any remedy or relief the arbitrator feels is just, equitable and within the scope of the agreement between the parties and the rules of the program. in general, the amount of any award may not exceed the carrier’s liability under the Bill of Lading. In reaching the decision, the arbitrator considers applicable federal law, ICC-approved tariff rules, as well as applicable usage and practices of the moving industry. Under the rules of the program, the arbitrator does not have jurisdiction to consider claims for consequential or incidental damages, mental anguish, loss of wages, punitive damages, alleged fraud, violations of the law or any claim which cannot be arbitrated under the law, such as allegations of criminal activity. The arbitrator’s decision is legally binding on both parties and can be enforced in any court having jurisdiction over the dispute.

Under rules of the program, there is a limited right to appeal on the arbitrator’s award; however, courts will usually not revise findings of fact or law in a binding arbitration award.

How Do I Request Arbitration?

 A shipper may request arbitration by writing to the American Movers Conference, ATTN: Dispute Settlement Program, 1611 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314- 3482. Your letter of notification to the American Movers Conference must be sent within 60 days after a final offer or denial on your claim has been made in writing by the carrier.

In addition to your name, address and phone number, the following information should be included in your letter to the American Movers Conference: the name the shipment moved under, identification number of shipment, dates and location of pickup and delivery, and any assigned loss and damage claim number. The American Movers Conference will promptly send written notice of your request for arbitration to the carrier. The carrier must then respond to you within 15 days by either sending three signed copies of the required forms and the program rules to you, or by advising you in writing that it declines to arbitrate the dispute. If a carrier does not agree to take a dispute to arbitration, the reason for that refusal will be clearly stated.

How Long Before a Decision Is Announced?

 The arbitrator will make an award in each case no later than 60 days after receipt of all necessary forms and documents, or in the event of an oral hearing, within 30 days after the arbitrator concludes the hearing. The arbitrator may, however, extend the time period in order to obtain additional information to resolve the dispute.

 In addition to the above information, here are some brochures that would provide additional information on the requirements of this program:

AMSA Dispute Settlement Program Rules

AMSA Arbitration Program

Pages from arbitration-brochure

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