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PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - Two new auto carrier companies from East Tennessee are under scrutiny by state and federal investigators.
They're brokers who arrange vehicles to be transported.
Every day across America, thousands of used vehicles are shipped by transport professionals because people relocate or buy cars in a different location.
The two new local companies in question are Titanium Transport, a broker, and Transport Relief, another broker, both from Pigeon Forge.
Their website even includes a picture of a truck, but we found out there is no truck.
Retired Army Master Sergeant Todd Morrell contracted with Transport Relief in February to move his 1964 pickup from Washington state to his home in Stafford, Va., an hour south of Washington. He paid a deposit by check.
But the $925 quote on his contract shot up by $300 as the delivery date approached.
"They lured me into it with a low price, then consistently tried to get me to increase the amount I would pay for the move," Morrell said.
Master Sergeant Morrell eventually hired another company to move his truck. He never got his nonrefundable $200 deposit back.
Mary Moore hired Titanium Transport with a $200 deposit through PayPal in January to pick up a 1970 Maverick in East Texas and move it to Hampstead, Md. where Mrs. Moore and her husband own a car repair business 30 miles west of Baltimore.
"When I called, they said they have their own truck, they're not just brokers, they have their own vehicle," she said.
Like any good business person, Moore has kept meticulous notes on her dealings with Titanium Transport. $400 was the "guaranteed quote" to move the Maverick, according to a company document.
But as moving day approached, the "guaranteed" quote wasn't so guaranteed.
"My new bill of lading says $700, not $400," she said.
Mary eventually cancelled the contract and never got her nonrefundable deposit back.
Todd Morrell tells a similar story about Transport Relief.
As his truck was about to be picked up, he questioned an agent why the price jumped from $900 to more than $1,200.
"She said, 'Let me look for another carrier.' This process just kept going on and on. Then as I did some research, I found out this is a bait and switch move," Morrell said.
Then as Mr. Morrell researched Transport Relief on a state of Tennessee website, he discovered a second name: Ownership Relief.
"They told me to make my check payable to Ownership Relief, not Transport Relief," he said.
When he looked up information on Ownership Relief, he found the name Titanium Transport - the same company Mrs. Moore dealt with. The agent is listed as William Soller.
"There is some kind of affiliation," Morrell said.
The Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. monitors transport companies.
6 On Your Side checked with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Both Titanium Transport and Transport Relief are registered as brokers.
As a result, complaints can be filed with the Department of Transportation and they will investigate the claim.
A home in Pigeon Forge is the listed business address for the two companies.
William "Billy" Soller, a state-registered agent with Titanium Transport, greeted us. So did Chris Heaton, the agent for Transport Relief.
We asked why the price of Todd Morrell's contract went up so much.
"The contract says there is no guarantee that a transport will ever happen. And there is no guarantee on quotes. That's why we don't send people prices, we send them quotes," Soller said.
No guarantee that a transport will happen?
We checked Todd Morrell's contract. It shows no reference to that language.
Soller and Heaton said 75% of their customers experience no trouble. The other 25%, they said, people like Mrs. Moore and Mr. Morrell, have problems that are out of the brokers' control.
"We're not here to rip anybody off. I take pride in dealing with my clients. You are dealing with two people who have major issues," Heaton said.
The Better Business Bureau's grades for the two companies are F's, with over three dozens complaints.
The trade website Transport Reviews is filled with a dozen or more not-so-flattering comments about the companies.
Other dissatisfied customers have called us from across the country.