Editor’s note: Two state reps from the Columbus area have introduced HB 382 to curb unethical practices among tow truck companies. For more information about this press release dated 12/12/2013, one may contact the offices of the bill’s sponsors, Democrat Rep. Heather Bishoff at (614) 644-6002 or Republican Rep. Mike Duffey at (614) 644-6030. IMHO, this bill is long overdue. Back in the mid-1990’s, I remember taking a bathroom break while moving furniture into a Columbus-area apartment only to find the vehicle missing from the parking lot when I re-emerged from the apartment. The van was blocking no one in, for it was in a space designated for the tenants of our apartment. I did not have a parking tag for the van, as I was only borrowing it because it was big enough to haul furniture in while my own vehicle was too small for that. I called the property manager’s office to figure out what happened. They gave me the towing facility’s phone number, but no one, to the property manager’s knowledge, had requested the van be towed, let alone complained about the van being parked where it was. Apparently, tow truck companies cooperated with each other to boost revenues. The towing facility I called, “Company A,” was not even the company that was hauling the van. Tow truck companies would patrol parking lots close to each other, whether they were the enforcing tow truck entity designated on the parking facility signs, or not. If Company A found vehicles to tow from its own lots, or from Company B lots, or from Company C lots, it would get the vehicles on the hook and tow them to the facility designated on the sign. In my case, Company B found the van and was hauling it to Company A. It is easy, under this scenario, to see why a tow truck operator would not unhook a vehicle even if caught in the act by a vehicle owner if Company B was grabbing a vehicle from a Company A lot. Company A expects to get paid for anything taken from a Company A lot. Company B expects to get paid for anything hauled by a Company B truck. If Company B were to accept a payment to unhook a vehicle prior to towing it from a Company A lot, then where is the Company A payday? When 2 companies cooperate to boost revenue, they both expect paydays. When we finally picked up the van from Company A, we paid the towing fee that reimbursed Company A for Company B’s payday and we paid the storage fee, which was Company A’s payday. The average consumer would suppose that Company A would only patrol and tow from Company A lots, but this was not the case in the mid-1990’s in the Columbus area. This bill, in calling for a 24-hour “grace period” for supplemental storage fees, would make cooperation between companies less lucrative, for Company A would have only been able to split a payday for hauling with Company B and would not be able to corner its own big storage fee payday. Moving apartments was expensive enough as it was without having to pay overzealous towing companies on top of that. The purpose for the parking policy at the apartment complex was so tenants would not have their allocated spaces taken by someone else. I was only using the space allocated to me. As unfair as it all was, I had no other recourse but to pay Company A whatever they demanded. I can only hope HB 382 moves quickly toward passage into law. –DJW
House Bill Introduced to End Predatory Towing Abuse in Ohio
Columbus, Ohio – State Representatives Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) and Heather Bishoff (D-Blacklick) yesterday introduced legislation to boost Ohioans’ protections against predatory tow truck abuse.
“For decades, vehicle owners in Ohio, especially college students, have been victimized by predatory towing practices such as bogus charges, no evidence of improper parking, unfair payment practices, and outright lies about Ohio’s existing right to stop tows already in progress,” said Duffey. “Now is the time to pass legislation to establish consumer protections for Ohio vehicle owners against predatory towing.”
Features of HB 382 include:
· Making explicitly illegal any and all bogus “administrative” charges or other fees not explicitly authorized in the Ohio Revised Code;
· Requiring signage at tow-away zones to clearly explain what qualifies as an “authorized vehicle”, including the purpose and hours for which vehicles may park;
· Providing a 24-hour “grace period” for supplemental storage fees, also known as overnight fees;
· Requiring that towed vehicles travel no further than 15 miles if possible or 25 miles maximum;
· Requiring tow trucks to accept major credit cards for payment, both onsite at the towing spot if caught in progress and at the storage facility once the tow has been completed;
· Prior to towing, a tow truck service must take at least one photograph of the vehicle showing it is parked illegally, and shall record the time and date of the photograph;
· “Stop, Drop and Pay Half” – Requiring the tow truck operator to actively notify the vehicle owner of their existing legal right to pay half of the normal tow charge for release if caught in progress;
· Tow trucks will be required to display business phone numbers on both sides of their trucks
· The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will be provided rule-making authority to aid in the enforcement and implementation of the provisions in this bill.
“Great tow truck operators exist in Ohio, but they cannot compete with the unfair practices of predatory companies,” said Bishoff. “It is time to ensure Ohioans receive fair treatment as vehicle owners and to ensure that good operators are not put at a disadvantage compared to those who operate illegally.”
HB 382 will now be referred to a standing House committee for further consideration.