The survey found that "creative" billing practices such as levying fees and charges simply to increase a towing bill and establishing high daily storage rates were among the worst problems consumers and insurers face when dealing with towing companies. Other frequent problems consumers and insurers encounter include towing company practices that make it difficult to recover a vehicle or even gain access in order to get personal effects or commercial cargo.
"When a shady towing company gets a vehicle on its hook, the owner and insurer may be facing staggering bills and confusing rules to reclaim the vehicle," said
The APCIA 2021
APCIA has outlined four public policy solutions to help curb towing abuses:
1) Eliminate the federal pre-emption on state regulation of accident and breakdown towing. This would allow states to protect their citizens from abusive towing practices and fees as they currently do for "non-consent" towing.
2) Require invoices be itemized to list all charges on all tows. This provides transparency for vehicle owners and the ability to document abusive billing practices.
3) Require clear information be provided to owners, and their insurers regarding the location and release procedures. This would include prohibiting storage fees for days when yard is not open for vehicles to be released.
4) Prohibit "wreck chasing" tow trucks that arrive unsolicited at accident scenes.
Following an accident, a motorist may feel vulnerable, but it is important to remember that if you need tow truck assistance you have options. This begins with reviewing your insurance coverage and discussing towing and repair options with your company or agent on an annual basis. APCIA has developed a checklist to help motorists who may require towing services.
Scams often occur when a tow truck just shows up at the scene of an accident. Consumers should exercise their rights and options. Consumers have the following rights:
* You can refuse a tow for any reason.
* You may choose who will tow your vehicle.
* You decide where your vehicle will be towed.
* You should get an itemized statement of the charges.
* You should receive a copy of the towing authorization form.
Steps consumers can take to protect themselves from Towing Abuses:
* If possible, try to move the vehicle out of traffic and get to a safe place.
* Explore your towing options before you go in case your vehicle breaks down or needs a tow after you leave home. Keep the contact information for your insurer and roadside assistance handy.
* If you leave your vehicle, remove or hide personal belongings or items that would be a target for theft such as electronics, purses, or other valuables
* Find out if the towing charge is a flat rate or by the mile and inquire about storage and other misc. fees and charges as well as how to gain access to the vehicle once it is towed.