CHOICE membership

Liability with removalist service / Removalist Insurance

Hi
I paid a man who provides a service to move small goods. He moved my fridge and some belongings. When he moved the fridge into its position a box snagged the copper pipe which carries the refrigerant gas which ruptured. I rang around and it could be anywhere up to $300 to fix.
Who is liable for this? It’s an unfortunate situation. I rang him and he only has insurance for transport and it does not cover entering the clients property. This seems stupid. Can anyone provide me with advice? The fridge is 13 years old and I don’t have the money to replace it. Cheers

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@holidayoffer,

Usually, the person who caused the damage is responsible for the damage.

It is irrelevant what his insurance covers as this is something he has accepted as a business risk.

If he does have insurance, I would also be surprised if transport does not include location to location (that being the location of the fridge in the departure house to the final location in the delivery house) and not limited to goods on the back of the delivery vehicle. I would expect, if he had insurance, that it would cover a fridge accidentally dropped down stairs by the removalist, for example.

I would approach the removalist and indicate that he is responsible for the damage to the fridge, and is therefore responsible for making the damage good (namely, return the fridge to a pre-damaged condition/working order). When he responds again about his insurance not covering the damage, you also need to state that his insurance cover is irrelevant as he is responsible for the damage. Note, the insurance company is only the secondary party he can use to cover the costs of the damage and not having insurance for the damage does not alleciate his responsiblity to repair the damage. Also state that you are interested in the repair on the fridge and not who will ultimately pay for it.

It maybe also worthwhile asking for a copy of his insurance cover…this will have two benefits, confirming that he actually has insurance and fhe second, if the insurance covers such damage. If the policy covers such damage, it may be worth contacting his insurer directly and making a claim.

Also note that the outcome may be that the fridge can’t be/to expensive to be repaired and a cash settlement is required…the cash being for the current market value of the fridge.

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Thank you. Makes sense.
I did speak with the removalist and he offered to pay for half of repair up to $200.
As he is responsible for damage I would prefer for him to pay for the whole repair.
If he doesn’t offer what are my options. Can we make a claim with small claim tribunal? Or lodge a complaint with consumer affairs. Just want to understand my position better and somehow not be out of pocket. I feel for him too but I remember I scratched someone’s car once and it cost me $450 to repair. Why should I pay for someone else’s error of judgement.

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I’ve taken two removalists to fair trading with success both times. This was some years ago though.

In each case they argued that they had offered me insurance that covered ‘extras’ that I’d declined - opting just to cover for loss en-route. In one instance they damaged a driveway through negligence, in the other the manner goods were packed was totally inadequate resulting in damage to the contents of boxes. I argued in both cases that the standard of service fell short of what would be reasonably expected and that I shouldn’t have to take out insurance to cover the negligence of the service provider. Fair trading agreed.

My advice up front would be to make sure you have insurance to cover ‘accident’ or ‘loss’ - but make sure they understand you will not tolerate negligence and will not insure just so they can be shoddy. Carry a camera during uplift and delivery and take photos when they arrive of major items (dining suites, white-goods, etc) so they know you are serious, and make sure they know you have it, and don’t be bullied by the gorillas :slight_smile:

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I dont have an exact answer, but this video may help everyone in the future

Interested in people’s views about insurance to cover your goods in transit. Removalists offer a choice of replacement value vs market value when you submit info about the value of the goods being transported.
Any views or experience about how to get the best value for insurance cover? Our goods are being transported to a regional centre and the company will have possession of our goods from Fri to Monday

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Just make sure you don’t let them handle your valuables.

https://9now.nine.com.au/a-current-affair/removalist-allegedly-steal-jewellery-worth-20k-from-aussie-family/1c15c8f3-32e1-4880-82d9-5a1b1e3258d7

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My last experience was almost 20 years ago, but as a general comment be sure to read every word and apply every punctuation mark in the insurance offered.

Market value is normally the value a used goods merchant would pay you for an item, not the street price for that item. I suspect market value insurance would be almost worthless in a practical sense, especially if there is an excess to pay. Your $2,000 bed frame (modern style, nothing special) might be worth $100 to the used goods merchant and he might try to sell it for $500 if that puts it into perspective, so you would get the $100 less any excess. Is the excess per item or per total contents?

Some policies explicitly enumerate what the policy covers for ‘loss’, eg caused by a road accident but not the entire van being stolen whilst parked at a motel overnight, a broken item they packed (not those you packed), missing items (read very carefully) on delivery - see @Fred123’s post? The blokes dropping a mirror (read carefully) loading or unloading or from insufficient packaging for transit?

In summary read what it says, not anything that could be assumed or expected. It is a contract and claims get handled according to the least onerous terms in the contract for them, and not more.

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You could contact your home Insurer to see if they offer Transit Insurance cover on the goods, it may even be a “free” part of your existing policy on the household contents. This may work out to be vastly cheaper and offer more realistic cover for your goods while they are being moved.

If goods are damaged while in the Removalist’s care they may be in breach of Australian Consumer Law and you could seek damages from them. This does not need you to take out Insurance, though Insurance might be an easier option (but may not really cover you anyway depending on the Contract terms as pointed out by @PhilT ):

A good hint from the linked article about who to use:

"Consumers can improve the chances of a trouble-free move by using the services of a member of the Australian Furniture Removers Association.

AFRA, the national industry body, provides professional training for members, and requires them to carry insurance and to abide by a code of conduct.

AFRA also assists in resolving complaints between its members and their customers."

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Don’t use the transit insurance offered by the removalists. It is extremely expensive way to cover one’s items during the move.

For example. when we moved from Brisbane to Tassie last year, the transit insurance offered by the removalists we obtained quotes from ranged from $2500 to just under $5000. The insurance they offered also had a number of limitations which meant that they had outs for providing cover if damage was caused. An example was if they damaged the house through moving an item (say damaging carpet, walls etc), it wasn’t covered by the insurance, only damage to the items moved.

We instead went to our insurance broker and for under $700 (it was through Zurich), we covered the same value of items, had a lower excess and also less limitations…and covered everything (including packing boxes ourselves, any damage caused and new for old).

It is worth getting insurance independently of the removalists is one wishes to have cover that suites one’s needs and is also significant cheaper than that offered as part of the removalist package.

I thought that was the case but speaking to a family member who is a lawyer, it isn’t necessarily the case. Most removal contracts which are signed one agrees to waiver or limit liability of any damage caused through the move…and the contracts strongly suggest transit insurance insurance be taken to cover any damage. If there is damage, a removalist will point to the contract and then ask if one took out relevant insurance cover.

Most contracts also limit the maximum amount that can be claimed. The AFRA removalist we moved with states in their contract:

Damage to Goods – Furniture Items. If You have elected not to take out any insurance
over furniture items whilst in transit or storage and We (or Our Subcontractor) did not package any furniture items for You prior to transit or storage, We will only be liable for damage to the furniture items up to an amount of $300 per item. This cap on Our liability to You does not apply if there is evidence that We (or Our Subcontractor) failed to exercise due care and skill and this failure is what caused the damage.

Lost, Stolen or Misplaced Items. If You have elected not to take out any insurance over the Goods whilst in transit or storage, and We (or Our Subcontractor) have not packed the Goods for You, We will only be liable for lost, stolen or misplaced boxes or items up to an amount of $150 per box. This cap on Our liability to You does not apply if You provided Us with a completed inventory including valuation of the contents of the box containing the Goods prior to commencement of transit or storage and there is evidence that We (or Our Subcontractor) failed to reasonably secure the Goods whilst in Our custody or care.

While we had some cover per item, most of our items had values which exceed the $300 limit meaning that we possibly would have taken on most of the risks associated with the move.

What is also interesting is if any damage is caused by Ancillary Services or another party, then there is no cover and one would need to take action against those other parties/services to try and recover any damages.

It is important to clearly read the contract for the removal to see that one is agreeing to as part of the move.

Some home and contents do offer moving insurance, but these can also be restrictive (such as not covered when moving interstate, items are transported on a boat/over water etc). They also require one to transfer insurance to your new place of residence (which financially might not be the best option). It is worth speaking to your existing house and contents insurer to see if they have standard cover in their policies…and if all your goods will be covered by the move. If they say yes, make sure you get it in writing.

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Our last move (6years) used a removals business that was established in both our from and too location. There have been two other moves of our family with the same business since.

You are unlikely to use the same business, however the content on their web site offers a useful point of reference. They provide insurance through the same underwriters as you may have for your household insurance.

Read carefully the PDS of any policy before accepting.
Note in this example the policy holder is the Removalist. It is not the customer. You are paying the Removalist for their policy based on their track record of claims. You may be much better served by a policy that you hold directly.

Note:

  • Replacement cost – in the event of a total loss, subject to the policy terms and conditions, this covers the full replacement cost of the items.
  • Market value option – in the event of a total loss, this option covers the replacement cost of the items, less a reasonable allowance for age, condition, wear and tear and depreciation.
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Only if packed by you, the limit does not apply if the Removalist either did not exercise care or that their Subbie failed to do so:

“This cap on Our liability to You does not apply if there is evidence that We (or Our Subcontractor) failed to exercise due care and skill and this failure is what caused the damage.”

“This cap on Our liability to You does not apply if You provided Us with a completed inventory including valuation of the contents of the box containing the Goods prior to commencement of transit or storage and there is evidence that We (or Our Subcontractor) failed to reasonably secure the Goods whilst in Our custody or care.”

That was for private moving and storage…this one is relevant to the damage that they cause…

Negligence. We will only be liable for the proportion to which the loss or damage to the
Goods is caused by or contributed to by Our negligence (including the negligence of any
Subcontractor, but excluding the negligence of any Third Party Provider), and in any event
that liability will be limited to $100 per item or package, or $1,000 in respect of all Goods moved or stored under this agreement

Which is a lower limit that that for private removals and storage.

And it also states:

Regardless of any contractual rights you may have against Kent, there are many circumstances
where they will not be liable to make good any loss or damage to your goods, for example where
the goods are damaged as a result of an accident that is not the Company’s fault.

If the removalist truck was in a accident with another vehicle, all the contents were written off and the other vehicle caused the accident, one may not have a claim against Kent but would have to make a claim against the driver of the other vehicle. One would hope that the other driver had insurance or could cover the value of the goods being transported.

In an ideal world, it would be great if the responsibility fully lay with the removalist and one could easily seek restitution under the ACL should an unfortunate event occur through a move…but we don’t live in an ideal world and the challenges of getting timely, if any, resolution under the ACL is problematic. If one loses all their possessions say through a truck fire, accident or other catastrophic event, one doesn’t want to have to wait months trying to get full resolution under the ACL (and not partial restitution agreed to in a contract), and who ultimately responsible for the damage.

Another major difference for non-removalist insurance at the time was delays. With independent cover, depending on the level of over taken, one could claim 30/60 days temporary accommodation should transported items be delayed or damaged such that it is impracticable to live into the new house.

Edit:

The Queensland Government has some information and advice about removalists and transit insurance:

Not taking out insurance can be risky. If you’re moving and looking for that extra peace of mind, choose insurance that suits your needs such as transit, contents, accidental, replacement or indemnity insurance. Most removalists only have insurance for their own vehicles in case of an accident. You will probably need your own insurance for possible damage or loss of your goods.