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Moving Company Allegedly Threatened Customers With Fake Legal Fees to Remove Negative Reviews Maine-based Liberty Bell Moving and Storage, Inc. just settled a lawsuit for $125,000.

By Emily Rella

entrepreneur daily
A Liberty Bell Moving & Storage truck, as posted on the company's Yelp page.

Online reviews are crucial for the success (or demise) of local businesses, and one company in Maine reportedly took drastic measures to make sure that negative reviews didn't plague their business — by threatening to sue people leaving negative reviews up to $2,500 per day.

Maine-based Liberty Bell Moving and Storage, Inc. settled a lawsuit with the Attorney General of the state on January 24 over claims that the company was using a fake email address (and posing as a lawyer) to tell customers that they would face fees up to $9,500 should they leave a negative review as it would be considered "false and defamatory."

The emails also reportedly threatened customers with a "defamation fee" of $1,000 which would be assessed with a 2.5% interest rate fee daily for up to 30 days if the reviews were left up.

Many ironically took to the company's Yelp pages to express their disdain after hearing about the lawsuit.

Liberty and its owner, Kevin Finkenaur, was ordered to pay $125,000, though, according to local outlet WMTW, Finkenaur "denies any wrongdoing."

The threats made by Finkenaur and his company were in direct violation of the Federal Consumer Review Fairness Act, Maine's Unfair Trade Practices Act, and other regulatory moving service laws on the federal level, the Attorney General's Office 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 Maine's Attorney General, Aaron M. Frey, in a release. "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."

The lawsuit did not clarify which specific review site or sites the company was monitoring or referring to.

A consumer alert warning for "questionable legal practices" has been posted on the company's multiple Yelp pages across eight locations in Maine and New Hampshire.

via Yelp

"This business may have tried to abuse the legal system in an effort to stifle free speech, for example through legal threats or contractual gag clauses," the notice reads. "As a reminder, reviewers who share their experiences have a First Amendment right to express their opinions on Yelp."

The company's main location in Portland currently has 48 reviews on its Yelp page averaging 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Emily Rella

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior News Writer

Emily Rella is a Senior News Writer at Previously, she was an editor at Verizon Media. Her coverage spans features, business, lifestyle, tech, entertainment, and lifestyle. She is a 2015 graduate of Boston College and a Ridgefield, CT native. Find her on Twitter at @EmilyKRella.

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