Before I begin, it should be noted that intrastate moves (within the same state) may be estimated differently than interstate moves.
While it is true that estimates based on cubic feet may be legal if they are in the company's tariff, the problem then becomes that they are using a non-standard tariff so who knows what else can be in there unless you get a copy of it and have your attorney review it. (A tariff is the moving company's pricing structure). Another problem is that there's no 3rd party verification; consumers, by law, can demand to have their shipment re-weighed at no cost to them but they have no right to have it re-measured.
Other problems with estimates based on cubic feet are that it is easier to bump cubic feet by using excess packing materials (also adding to the cost) or by packing the truck poorly than it is to bump weight. Also, estimates based on cubic feet are a known red flag for scam moving companies. They've been using that method for years because it is so easy to increase the costs.
There's an example today in a post about a company in Brooklyn by "first_time_mover":
Excel picked up my items in their own truck and told me that my items took up 800 cubic feet on the truck. [After keeping them in storage for me], they used a contractor to deliver the items, and the items appeared to take up significantly less than 800 cubic feet on the contractor's truck. I asked him how much space the items took up, and he told me that according to his paperwork, 400 cubic feet. - http://www.movingscam.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5120
But the customer had already paid the company to move 800 cubic feet for him (not 400) at $3.10 per cubic foot. The company apparently doubled the cubic feet on the sly so it could charge him more.
Here's another post by "Moving disaster" illustrating the same kind of scam:
When [Amerigo] began packing they said that the truck would hold 2200 cu ft and that it would be close (est was 1800) so they would bring another truck in case there was extra. After my entire household was loaded (at 8:30 at night) I was told that the total would be 3000 cu ft!!! Without any options (since my entire household is sitting on their trucks), I paid. When we unloaded the boxes we found a significant number of "under packed" boxes (ex a full dish box with only spice bottles in it and a LOT of paper, wardrobe box with only 2 kids chairs and a globe...) I measured the 2200 cu ft truck. It was only 1880. I figure they over charged by at least 30% (I had two estimates, actual surveys). -
Also notice this "confession" about how to fake cubic foot measurements by someone who used to work for scammers:
whodat1b wrote: 3/7/08 - One reason some people work for scammers is because of the bonus - the unwritten bonus. Most of them will give you a 5-7% bonus for a price change. That money goes to you after the trip they tally up all of the trips they see how much you adjusted the price. You get the bonus!
The customer was thinking they were going to pay let's say 3,000 for the move. You get there and adjust the price, extra boxes they don't really need . . . it's a wrap. One mover keeps the customer in the house the other mover builds a wall half way up, Then brings in a mattress and box spring to hide the fact that the wall is not to the ceiling of the truck - hence more cubic feet has been used by the customer.
The mover charges them 3,800 dollars, 5-7% over a 30 day or so period can REALLY ADD UP. You may do a move every other day or so. To clear things up that's 5-7% of the overcharge. - http://www.movingscam.com/forum/viewtop ... 663#104663
I hope that helps answer the question.