Predatory Towing: What You Need to Know and How to Protect Yourself
The majority of tow truck drivers are friendly and helpful, ready to help you out of a jam. But lax federal and local laws sometimes allow unscrupulous companies to prey on motorists. Knowing what constitutes predatory towing and what your rights are is the best way to protect yourself.
What Is Predatory Towing?
The term predatory towing refers to arrangements some towing companies make with private property owners (often those who have parking lots) to tow vehicles off their property as quickly as possible. Once the car is towed, it’s taken to the towing company’s lot, and the owner of the vehicle must pay for the towing, the storage, and often other fees as well.
Obviously, the towing company makes more money when they tow more cars. This is why they sometimes employ spotters to call the instant they see a parking violation—which means you might run into a store for a quick item and find your car gone when you get back. These spotters sometimes watch which lot a driver parks in and then verify that the person goes into that particular business. If not, it’s a quick call to the towing company and a big headache for the driver.
What You Can Do About It
While predatory towing is technically not illegal, it infuriates drivers. A large increase in the practice often results in changes to towing laws so consumers have more protection. So that’s the first step if you think you’ve been the victim of predatory towing: Check your local towing laws to see if any were violated. One common law is that the car must be released unconditionally back to you if you come back while it’s in the process of being towed.
The presence or lack of clearly posted signs is an important point if you think you’ve been towed unfairly. If you come back to find your car has been towed, take pictures of the spot where you left your car and the surrounding area, including any signs. These pictures could be very important if you want to legally challenge the fees the tow company says you owe.
Legislation to regulate towing companies who have predatory practices only comes about when enough consumers express their displeasure. If you’ve been a victim, you can complain to your local law enforcement, take to the internet to leave candid reviews of the towing business, and report them to the Better Business Bureau.