Customers complained a moving company based in Billerica, Massachusetts, held their furniture hostage, while demanding more cash for their services.
Now, some of them will be getting their money back, thanks to a legal judgment secured by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
The developments come after a 2016 report about the business tactics of Father & Son Moving & Storage from investigative reporter Ryan Kath, now with the NBC10 Boston Investigators.
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The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office had already sued Father & Son back in 2013 for what they described as a "bait and switch scheme." Essentially, the company lured in customers with a low quote, but then jacked up the price of the move once customers' belongings were already on the trucks.
A court order prohibited the company from continuing the practice. However, after the 2016 investigative report detailed similar stories from customers, the AG's office pursued a contempt case.
In June, a Suffolk County judge ordered Father & Son to pay $75,000 in penalties, some of which will go to customers as restitution.
"This is a company we will continue to watch very closely," Healey told the NBC10 Boston Investigators. "If they continue to break the law, we will seek to shut them down. But I hope the message has been sent to them loud and clear."
Rutland homeowner Allison Bechman said she received an enticing quote of about $750 for her one-bedroom move out of Boston in 2016. However, the software test engineer said the number quickly changed when the workers showed up.
"At the very end, they gave me a total which was about $1,000 more than what they'd quoted me," she recalled. "There wasn't anything I could do. I pretty much had to pay because they had my stuff."
After sitting in storage for a couple of months, the day arrived for Father & Son to move Bechman's belongings to her new place.
Bechman said it did not go smoothly. She showed NBC10 Boston photos of broken or damaged items, including lamps, electronics and kitchenware. Some things were missing. She also ended up with other people's stuff.
To top it off, Bechman said before workers had finished unloading everything off the truck, they demanded more cash.
"They threatened to stop everything right there and just leave if I didn't agree to it," Bechman said. "It felt like they were holding everything hostage, and holding you hostage, basically."
In an emailed statement from Father & Son co-owner Keith Taylor, the company continued to deny the allegations and described the AG's recent enforcement as a "campaign of harassment."
Taylor said the moving company maintains a favorable grade on the Better Business Bureau and also has received plenty of positive online reviews.
Taylor told NBC10 Boston that Father & Son made the strategic decision not to fight the case because the legal costs of fighting it would have jeopardized the company's financial viability.
"The recent judgement is an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of Father & Son and its current business practices," Taylor wrote. "Father & Son provides superior services and a positive moving experience to all its customers and remains committed to continuing this practice going forward."
Bechman contacted the AG's office after seeing the 2016 investigative report. She now anticipates receiving $10,000 in restitution.
"I saw your expose and did a double take," Bechman told Kath. "I was like, 'They did the exact same thing to me!' They should've learned their lesson the first time they were caught."