ATLANTA -- The Georgia agency empowered to oversee furniture-moving companies does little to actually protect consumers, a state audit found.
And the agency has been slow to correct the same criticisms originally levied three years ago.
The Public Service Commission, the five-man panel that regulates movers, bus lines and other utilities gets more attention when it deals with Georgia Power Co. or Atlanta Gas Light. But state law also makes it the primary, government safeguard against poor-performing moving companies.
However, the state’s Department of Audits & Accounts found that nearly half the movers advertising in metro Atlanta weren’t even licensed. The PSC only investigates if there’s a complaint, even though it’s unlikely many consumers would know where in the government to complain.
In 2008, the audit team offered six specific recommendations, in some cases borrowing effective practices from other states. Last week, it issued a follow-up report indicating none had been fully implemented, four partially implemented and two not at all in the three years since.
Among the recommendations were turning off the phone service for companies in violation of regulations, verifying the financial stability of companies, conducting background checks and clarifying information the commission posts on its website about movers. For instance, the Web site lists five movers as being unreliable, but none have lost their licenses.
“The PSC has not taken significant action to proactively identify and prosecute unlicensed movers,” the audit team wrote.
In response, the commission said it only has the funds for one, full-time staffer to supervise the regulation of all movers. Still, it has plans to make some changes, such as requiring movers issue written estimates, include license numbers in advertising and swear that information on their license application is correct.
Fines are being considered for providing false information on applications.
The audit team suggests that the PSC refer consumers to the private, Better Business Bureau because it is more effective in helping consumers resolve typical complaints.