A Gaithersburg-based moving company must pay $549,226 to consumers and in penalties after overcharging customers and sometimes holding their possessions to secure payment, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said.
A final order issued by the Consumer Protection Division found that Best Offer Moving Co. and those who ran it, Andrii Dziapka and Karina Sokol, violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Maryland Household Goods Movers Act on each of 391 moves it handled in the state since 2014, Frosh said Monday.
"Beware of movers who give you estimates without seeing your goods or taking a complete inventory," Frosh said in the announcement.
Dziapka and Sokol, of Germantown, could not be reached for comment. Frosh said they have run the company since May 2014 and were found liable for their roles in violating state laws.
He said Best Offer gave lowball estimates over the phone, then illegally raised the amounts it charged consumers. The company asked consumers to sign blank forms that were later filled in with hidden charges for packing material and other unwanted services. In one case, the company drove off with the prescription drugs and medical devices of a child with cerebral palsy, hearing loss, and other serious health conditions, and refused to return the items until the state obtained a court order.
On any move in Maryland, movers can't charge more than 125 percent of their estimate or refuse to deliver goods once they've been loaded onto a truck, the attorney general's office said. Movers are required to give a written estimate. If it is a binding estimate, the mover cannot charge any more.
The state is requiring Best Offer's owners to refund amounts charged in excess of written estimates or charged for storage as well as a civil penalty.
The company must post a $75,000 bond before conducting any further business and conduct in-home surveys of consumers household goods before providing estimates. They are prohibited from charging for services or fees not listed in the written estimate.