Plagued by lurid stories of dishonesty and pursued by government regulators, the household moves industry recently brought out a code of ethics for its 46 members in the Washington area that it hopes will reasure customers.

Movers will be asked to subscribe to 12 points covering a variety of issues ranging from truth in advertising to higher safety standards. The code instructs movers to explain fully their liability for loss or damage, to use only certified scales, and to make price estimates accurate to the best of their ability. Subscribing companies will receive a logo to display.

The major benefit, according to the Northern Virginia Household Goods Carriers Association, is that the public will now have a published standard by which to judge all companies. "There's nothing new in this code," declared Dorothy Coffey of Crowder's Transfer and Storage. "It tells the truth about the way we've done business for 20 years. It's just that the public needs to know."

What the public has been hearing of late is stories of weight bumping, in which unscrupulous movers temporarily add heavy materials to the household goods to "bump" up the price, and deliberately underestimating the cost of a load to get business and then refusing to deliver until the customer has paid the actual higher cost in cash. The Interstate Commerce Commission, which regulates household movers, has announced that it is serious about cracking down against abuses. The industry's code of ethics is an effort to reduce government regulation which, movers say, adds unnecessary costs to the consumer's bill.