Pacific Legal Foundation
Lawsuit challenges Missouri’s state-imposed moving-business cartel
ST. LOUIS, MO; June 17, 2010: St. Louis entrepreneur Michael Munie filed suit today to challenge a Missouri licensing law that allows moving companies to block new firms from entering the moving business to compete with them. Munie charges that this restriction on competition creates a cartel that violates the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.
Michael Munie operates a moving company, ABC Quality Movers, that serves residents of St. Louis, but he has been barred from operating in any other part of Missouri because competitors have taken advantage of a state licensing law that allows them to veto their own competition.
In his court challenge to the licensing law, Munie is represented by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation, a watchdog organization that litigates nationwide for limited government, free enterprise, and property rights. The case is Munie v. Skouby. View the complaint and background information.
“Missouri law runs new movers off the road before they even put keys in the ignition,” said PLF Principal Attorney Timothy Sandefur. “If you want to start a moving company, you first have to get an ‘okay’ from your own competition. Putting roadblocks in the way of new businesses doesn’t safeguard consumers – it only protects existing companies from having to compete fairly.”
Whenever someone applies for a license to run a moving company, the Missouri Department of Transportation must notify all existing moving businesses in the area and allow them to object to the issuing of a new license. If even one firm objects, the newcomer must attempt to prove that a new moving company is “necessary.”
Only existing companies are allowed to object to a new license, Sandefur pointed out. The general public is not given an opportunity to object. Nor does the law explain how an entrepreneur is supposed to prove that the new company is “necessary.”
“A new business must ask customers to take time off of work and come down to a government hearing and testify that a new moving company is ‘necessary,’” Sandefur explained. “No upstart company can do that. And in any case, it’s impossible to prove that any new business is ‘necessary,’ rather than merely ‘convenient’ or ‘better.’
“This law allows existing firms to turn thumbs-down to newcomers,” Sandefur continued. “It raises prices for consumers, and deprives honest people like Mike Munie of their right to earn a living.”
Michael Munie has been in the moving business for decades, since he was sixteen years old, and his current moving company, ABC Quality Movers, employs 15 people. Last year, he applied for a license to serve customers throughout the state of Missouri, but was hit with objections from existing moving companies. Only when he scaled back his request – limiting his operations to the city of St. Louis – were the objections dropped. He was allowed to get a state license to operate only within their city.
Munie’s company is currently the top-rated St. Louis-area mover on Angie’sList.com. “I know the business moving business inside out, and I shouldn’t be prevented from serving the public by arbitrary rules that only serve to limit people’s choices and service options,” he said.
PLF’s challenge to Missouri’s state-created moving-business cartel follows up on the foundation’s successful litigation against a similar anticompetitive scheme in Oregon. After PLF challenged the Oregon law on behalf of a Portland entrepreneur, the restrictions were repealed by the Oregon Legislature.
The case is Munie v. Skouby. View the complaint and background information.
In addition to Sandefur, PLF attorneys Daniel A. Himebaugh and M. Reed Hopper are also working on the Munie case, and Show Me Institute Attorney Dave Roland is providing help as well.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Pacific Legal Foundation is the oldest and most successful public interest legal organization that litigates for limited government, free enterprise, and property rights in courts across the country.