A Maine business owner who used a fake email to threaten people who left him negative reviews on the Internet has now settled with the Maine Attorney General’s office, the AG’s office said Tuesday.
The AG’s office has entered into an agreement with Liberty Bell Moving and Storage Inc., and its owner, Kevin Finkenaur in which Finkenaur agreed to pay $125,000.
The AG’s investigation found the company had violated federal and state laws, including the federal Consumer Review Fairness Act, the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act, and other regulations.
The settlement stems from a July 2022 lawsuit filed by the State alleging that Finkenaur used a fake email account, posing as his company’s attorney, to email threats to former customers who left negative reviews for his services.
Liberty Bell Moving & Storage currently has 45 reviews on Yelp, with a average of 3.5 stars.
The negative reviews cover everything from movers allegedly damaging property during moves to allegations that the business is a scam.
According to one commenter, the company included the following language in its services contract: “Any bad reviews posted against Liberty Bell on any social media platform or other review sites due to alleged damage, or lost items will be deemed false and defamatory. Any such false and defamatory remarks are made against Liberty Bell Moving & Storage will make the signer of this document liable in court for punitive damages for making these allegations.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, it’s illegal to prevent someone from sharing their honest opinion of a business.
Finkenaur has agreed not to engage in illegal behavior, the AG said.
“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,” said AG Aaron M. Frey.
“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,” he said.