nellions Risk of moving: Who bears the brunt?Client or the moving company?

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Is Moving Done At Owners’ Risk In Kenya?

moving done at owner's riskI’m sure we have all seen this warning sign all the years we have been around. Sometimes it is even more elaborate: Goods carried, handled and transported at owners risk!

It is very common with transport companies even with some which are old and well established. Does this clause apply to moving house hold goods, office furniture & equipment or when moving personal effects from the perspective of professional moving service providers? Honestly, I have also seen this clause been applied by very established moving companies in Kenya and across East African region. Remember we do not have any regulation in Kenya within the moving industry. There is no written law and neither do we have a self-regulating body like the “Association of Kenyan Movers”.

I have worked for many years in the logistics and moving industry in Nairobi and upon reflection I think there is a general feeling among the service providers that transport is a very risky job. Secondly, I have noticed over time that the professional moving category has not done enough to distinguish itself as an independent industry of it’s own with a different identity from that of general transporters. For this reason many a moving companies in Kenya carry a lot similarities in procedures, documentation, image and culture that mirrors general transporters. Even though they will say they are professional moving companies on their front office (websites, brochures, etc) their back office operates on a totally different mode. Their systems do not fit into the mind set of a modern day moving company.

In truth, a moving company takes a lot of risk when it embarks on a full service move on behalf of it’s client. If transport is risky, moving is riskier. It is that simple. Just imagine packing fragile crystals, expensive furniture, handling timeless items inherited over centuries, moving antiques and collections, moving items with all sorts of different shapes and fitting them in together, etc. Just yesterday, one of my colleagues sent me a message that he moved some type of furniture that he has never seen before and thinks might never see it’s kind again. I also remember exporting a consignment last year that had ancient bangles that were used in slave trade a few centuries ago. They had been handed over several generations and am not sure if I will ever see them again.

Suppose I told my client that I was handling the slave bangles at his own risk. What this means is that moving companies are obliged to execute their jobs with very high levels of expertise and efficiency in order to reduce the risk. Indeed they are meant to be highly conscious of the value clients attach to their goods both monetary and sentimental. Some items are irreplaceable and sometimes even replacement could be meaningless like in case of gifts or memorial items.
The first step towards reducing the risk is realizing the enormity of the responsibility that the mover carries on behalf of it’s clients. If the mover does not see it from the client’s perspective then goods will always be handled at owners’ risk. It does not matter how many articles like this will be published. It is imperative that heavy investments are deliberately made by any professional removal company in staff recruitment, staff training, moving resources and moving equipment.

I am sure some people could be now wondering about move insurance. Right? Yes, we do have Goods In Transit Insurance and Marine Insurance covers. They do help when it happens and are always advisable. Other than road accidents most other moving related damages and losses happen due poor planning, poor handling and poor packing. Period. In short many very many losses can be avoided. They mostly look minor in nature but most of the times are very painful to clients.

As a client, when a removal company displays that disclaimer clause saying goods are handled, transported uninsured at owner’s risk you should have reason to worry. If I were you I would rather do the job on my own. How can a third party pack my goods using his materials and personnel whom I don’t know, carry them in his truck and yet the risk is on me? It is completely preposterous. In truth clients expect compensation when things go wrong even have seen this clause but in practice it is never easy.

I don’t mean that the moving company should carry all losses even for road accidents, Acts of God, riots, pre-existing damages on furniture, etc. However, a responsible business has duty to ensure there goods are handled and moved with maxim care in order to avoid damages. Anyone who runs with this clause will most likely not be serious in taking responsibility and may not seriously invest in ensuring reduction of such losses.

In major economies, moving is a very big and well regulated industry with written laws guiding the responsibilities of the moving companies. Such laws set the minimum requirements and even moving companies are issued with licenses. On top of it there are strong industry associations which come with their own requirements all to the benefit of the clients and to maintain the good name of the industry. This helps improve the standards, creates order and removes those business only with the money motive.

In the Kenyan case (and many African countries) it is different. In quite many times, there is little protection for the moving client. The next time you move house or office ask the sales person of the moving company to show the documents they use and check for that famous clause. Let it be very clear to you who is shouldering the risk before engaging. Be safe with your valuable possessions.

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