Illegal towing and predatory towing is conducted by towing companies without the owner's consent. Predatory towers can overcharge, damage vehicles and often have monetary contracts with property owners to illegally tow vehicles from their property.
Illegal Towing and Predatory Towing Practices
In the past decade, many US states began to regulate illegal and predatory towing. In 2005, a bill was introduced that would allow states such as California to enact legislation regarding towing practices on private property, but towing companies work around the legal system—predatory towers defend themselves by claiming they just have a different interpretation of the rules and hire attorneys to make it almost impossible to represent yourself without a lawyer.
Illegal Towing Laws
For example, a towing company may have a contract with a city police department in which the charge for a tow is $75.00, and the city may have a cap of $200 for private property tows. But your car may be towed from a parking lot for a charge of $400.00. Some unscrupulous towing companies ignore predatory towing laws.
Check your state's towing rules because Illegal towing laws vary. A predatory tower is familiar with the laws but assumes their victims do not know illegal and predatory towing laws. If you know the law and complain, the illegal tower may give you a refund.
Here are a few examples of illegal towing laws:
In 2006, Vehicle Code bill AB 2210 came into effect, which protects motorists from predatory towing practices from private property. California law requires the tow company to immediately and unconditionally release a vehicle if the driver arrives prior to it being towed from the private property or in transit.
Oregon law requires that the tower release a vehicle at no charge only if the driver is present prior to the hookup being complete. The tower must also take at least one photograph of the vehicle and record the time and date of the photograph. The photograph must show the vehicle violation taking place.
Virginia legislation requires warning signs to be posted at all entrances, maximum fees set for towing and storage, and photographs to be taken before towing to show the condition of the vehicle as well as the lawfulness of the towing.
Non Stop et al Illegal Towing Class Action Lawsuit
A class action lawsuit was filed against eight towing companies for allegedly towing legally parked cars, charging exorbitant fees, and engaging in predatory towing practices. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Los Angeles residents whose cars were towed while legally parked in Southern California. The suit alleges Non Stop towing and other firms regularly tow cars without reason and overcharge motorists in order to make larger commissions.
"The first thing you think of when you car has been towed is that it has been stolen," says attorney John Bisnar. "Well, getting towed is similar; it might as well be road robbery. All too often, tow companies are holding your car ransom.
"Unfortunately, many tow companies aren't playing by the rules and countless people have had their vehicles towed illegally. Not only does the tow company usually release your vehicle for cash (and usually charges about $300), it also dings hapless drivers for other charges such as $45 per day for storage, an extra $45 fee after 6pm or on a weekend. Again, these charges are not legal."
And why do some companies only accept cash? By law they are required to take credit cards or checks. "I am guessing that they want to conceal the illegal tow and/or income and/or they don't want you to dispute the credit card charge or stop payment on a check," says Bisnar.
Illegal Towing Racket and Scam
Bisnar knows that tow truck drivers get a bonus for towing cars. "We have a former employee from one of these bandit companies with a background so checkered we can't use him as a witness but he gives us information," he explains. "And we also know of this scam: Someone watches the parking lot and calls the tow company and the person who is watching is being compensated by the company for every car towed from that lot."
Illegal Towing Lawsuit
Bisnar is representing a client who was having lunch in a fast-food outlet—he was only there 20 minutes. "We know it was an illegal tow. In fact, there have been tow companies that the LA county district attorney brought charges against for this particular type of action...another client owns a towing company and his own tow truck was towed by his competition! He is flaming mad."
Due to recent illegal towing media coverage, people contact Bisnar's firm daily and many are joining the class action. However, Bisnar can only accept clients with good documentation. "People must be able to substantiate their claims; they need receipts and wherever possible, witnesses," he says.
"For instance, one person we just signed on got his car towed at a specific time-- he has a receipt for a deposit from his bank that proves he was not in the area where his car was towed, 20 minutes before it was towed--meaning his car wasn't parked for an hour. And he paid the tow company by credit card."
If you want to fight the tow company, you won't have your car and you risk paying hefty storage charges --who can afford that? "Illegal towing has become a social issue-somebody has to do something about this," says Bisnar. "Hey, why not us?"