The Maine attorney general’s office has settled a lawsuit against a Windham moving and storage firm for $125,000.
Attorney General Aaron Frey’s office sued Liberty Bell Moving and Storage LLC and its owner, Kevin V. Finkenaurm in July in U.S. District Court in Portland over his illegal business practices.
Frey said Tuesday that an investigation found that the company violated the federal Consumer Review Fairness Act, the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act, and regulations for businesses that engage in interstate moving operations.
As part of the settlement, Finkenaur agreed to refrain from engaging in a number of illegal business practices, including no longer using a misleading email address indicating it was the account of the company’s attorney, Frey said.
Finkenaur used the email address to threaten customers who left negative reviews of the company’s services. Some of the company’s contracts with customers required that they absolve it of all potential claims before providing moving and storage services, which violates Maine law, according to the attorney general.
Liberty Bell offered three types of moving services — full valuation protection, released valuation protection and no valuation protection. Full valuation covered the cost of damage, loss or theft for items being moved, the lawsuit said. It does not include a clause concerning the posting of negative reviews.
The other two services offered reduced fees for coverage and no coverage for the loss, damage or theft of items, respectively. Both included a provision banning the posting of negative reviews, the lawsuit claimed. Customers who signed up for lesser insurance coverage are subject to a $1,000 “defamation management fee” if the negative comments are not removed.
While Liberty Bell is based in Windham, it has eight other locations between Bangor and Saco, according to information on its website.
“It is ironic that a company named for an iconic symbol of freedom would concern itself with violating the free speech and other legally entitled rights of consumers,” Frey said in announcing the settlement. “I hope this case will remind consumers that no business can require you to waive your right to leave honest reviews of businesses and products.”
Finkenaur’s Portland attorneys did not immediately return a request for comment.