Moving to France: How to find a good removals firm – and avoid a bad one!

PUBLISHED: 09:33 27 August 2021 | UPDATED: 09:47 27 August 2021

Do your due diligence to find a good removals firm (c) evgenyatamanenko Getty Images

Do your due diligence to find a good removals firm (c) evgenyatamanenko Getty Images

Evgeny Atamanenko

Choosing a good international removals firm is more about knowing how to avoid the cowboys. Steer well clear of companies that ring these alarm bells and you’ll have a smooth transition to your new life in France, says expert Gary Burke

In all industries, there are companies out to make a ‘quick buck’ and provide a shoddy, sub-standard service at best. Unfortunately, the removals industry is no different. Packing all of your worldly possessions into boxes and stacking them up in a van to be transported to France is no mean feat. Factor in the legal and financial dealings and the general upheaval of moving abroad and you can appreciate why moving house is renowned as a stressful event. It’s certainly no time to be dealing with a cowboy removal company.

Brexit has also changed the rigours of the process for moving to the Continent; some smaller and less experienced firms may also not be able to navigate the bureaucracy of the post-Brexit world.

As they say, only fools rush in and when it comes to choosing a company to carry out your move to France, it’s worth taking your time to ensure that you’re choosing a legitimate and reputable mover. A company who knows every nuance of the process will be a useful ally in what can be quite a stressful time. Fear not. Here are some of the red flags to help you avoid entrusting all your worldly goods to a cowboy company.

No badges

One of the main things to always look out for with a removal company, is that they’re members of the British Association of Removers (BAR). For reassurance of their credibility as an international mover, they should also be members of FIDI, the largest global alliance of international moving and relocation companies, with members in over 100 countries. The badges for these organisations should be displayed on a remover’s website, sometimes on their vans and in their brochures.

These accreditations mean that they are independently audited and assessed to guarantee quality service. Importantly, and this is what really sets them apart, membership through BAR and FIDI organisation guarantees your money and move are thoroughly protected. It provides a scheme of pre-payment protection. As payments are made prior to moving, it is more reassuring to use a financially bonded mover who belongs to the BAR or FIDI. The BAR comprises movers that offer a guarantee that customers’ advanced payments are protected should the company cease to trade.

A reputable removals firm will have its logo on lorries and literature (c) Burke BrosA reputable removals firm will have its logo on lorries and literature (c) Burke Bros

All of this means that if you have paid prior to your move and that company ceased to trade before your moving day, your payment is protected. It offers you financial security, operational competence, worldwide support and redress facilities that give you total satisfaction that your possessions are being thoroughly cared for.

Camera shy

It’s standard procedure to check out a company’s website. It’s worth looking closely though. What do they not show? Do they tell you how often their services run to France? Do they offer part loads? How about moving cars and motorbikes; is this part of their offerings? The sleekest of websites can be a smoke screen for less than sleek operations. For example, you’d expect to see some ‘real life’ photographs on their website of their vans, their removal crews and the moves they have carried out.

When companies use only generic images from a stock library, it raises the question of why they don’t want you to see their vans and their crews. Similarly, their social media channels should be active and reflect their authority in the industry with updates and advice on the moving process, as well as showing moves they have carried out.

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No pre-move survey

Rogue removers are inclined to pull a figure out of thin air and insist that they don’t need to see your premises, the volume of effects you’re moving or take into account any problematic access. A reputable and experienced remover, however, will most likely send a surveyor out to the premises, or conduct a survey via video (if you prefer to be socially distant), to generate an accurate quotation. It will also appropriately allocate resources to competently complete the move on moving day. If a remover can’t generate an accurate quote in the first instance, the move is likely to escalate as the process goes on, incurring extra expense.

No insurance

It’s the nature of the moving process that even the best companies, with the greatest care taken, will incur breakages at some point. Any company that doesn’t mention insurance is, of course, not worth even entering into a conversation with. When a company does offer insurance, it’s good advice to still read through the terms and conditions of that cover.

Patchy presence

One of the best ways to choose a removal company is based on recommendations from other people. This may be via word of mouth or online reviews. All companies fall prey to fake reviews from competitors etc, but generally speaking a reputable company will have accrued a decent stock of favourable reviews online. Review sites like Sirelo, for example, feature reviews that are verified to ensure that they are submitted by people who have genuinely used the services of the removal company, rather than the company themselves posting their own glowing testimonials.

Don’t expect to see reviews that are 100% perfect. Any remover who’s been in the industry long enough, will at some point have a criticism from a customer. It’s revealing to see how a company responds to a critical review though. Look for those that take on board the feedback and provide solutions or explanations for the issue raised. A rogue trader may be suspiciously absent from any of the removal review sites.

So, there you have it, a few insider tips on choosing a safe pair of hands for your move to France. There are decent, reputable companies out there to co-ordinate your move to France. In many ways Brexit will serve to further heighten the difference between those who really have the experience and capability to execute a move competently and those who don’t, so now really is the time to choose wisely.

Gary Burke is Director of Burke Bros Moving Group, now in its 40th year of business.

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