|By Rob Perez, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"We're not going to step into doing something wrong right from the beginning," Tandal told the
Leeward Auto was charging a
In some of the more egregious cases, customers overpaid around
By state law, towing companies are able to charge up to
The discounts that Leeward Auto offered in its written bid were among the reasons the city selected the company -- which had no prior experience overseeing police-initiated tows -- over four competing vendors.
Despite that written bid, Tandal in a Friday morning interview with the
But once the newspaper questioned the city about Tandal's comments, Leeward Auto executives were summoned to an impromptu meeting with city officials Friday afternoon. After that meeting, Tandal contacted the
He said company executives immediately told Leeward Auto offices to switch to the lower rates and that roughly 2,000 customers affected by the overcharging would be notified beginning this week that they are entitled to refunds of any overpayments.
But after the newspaper's inquiry, the city intends to demand from Leeward Auto a complete accounting of all charges for police-initiated tows, a plan to refund any overcharges and a plan to ensure compliance with contract terms, Brannon said.
If the company charges more than what the contract specifies, he added, it would constitute a breach of the agreement.
Noting that the city takes contract enforcement and consumer protection seriously, Brannon wrote, "The city greatly appreciates the newspaper bringing this issue to our attention."Asked what monitoring the city does to ensure compliance, Brannon said the police monitors Leeward Auto's performance and the city's motor vehicle control unit investigates submitted complaints. Since
Brannon said five complaints in that period is average and that the city generally is satisfied with the company's performance, excluding billing.
This is the first time the city has turned to a single company to oversee all of
Previously, the island was divided into 13 zones, and towing companies competed for the exclusive contracts for each zone. Before Leeward Auto took over, the city was dealing with about five vendors.