Drivers face new $132 fees as tow companies pass along hefty increase to stay in business

DRIVERS will face higher towing fees after more than 200 towing companies claimed higher prices were necessary to stay afloat.

The petition was granted - but driver advocates want to see other laws put in place to protect civilians.

Over 200 towing companies petitioned to raise the maximum towing fee to stay in businessCredit: GettyCompanies cited an increase in employee work load and heightened equipment useCredit: GettyThe motion was initially denied, though it was approved the second timeCredit: Getty

Like many states, Massachusetts has limits on how much tow companies can charge in towing and storage fees.

The original intent of those laws was to prevent rogue towing companies from falsifying towing reports or towing cars only to charge drivers astronomical fees to have their vehicles returned.

Many companies were found guilty of not allowing drivers to use credit cards and would deny customers an itemized bill when asked.

For a long while, drivers were happy knowing their vehicles weren't going to be wrongfully towed only to be overcharged to get it back.

However, according to the Statewide Towing Association, an association representing over 200 companies, no one thought about how it would affect towing companies.

In 2020, the association petitioned the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to be able to raise costs slightly to adjust for a higher employee workload and an increase in equipment use.

The agency, which oversees rates for "involuntary" tows by police to remove a disabled vehicle or those on private property, denied the motion after the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG) wrote them in opposition.

"The DPU should not consider any increases in towing fees unless and until they consider adopting long overdue consumer protections," wrote Deirdre Cummings, the legislative director for the research group, quoted by The Boston Globe.

Desperate to remain above water, the towing association applied for emergency approval to raise prices, again citing increased demand for services and equipment wear.

The association presented data showing their equipment costs rose by 30 percent since 2017, while employee workload increased by 80 percent.

‘My car’s gone’ driver fumes after it was towed from neighborhood as he slept – he owes $315 in cash over width of tire

The $108 maximum fee wasn't enough to keep everything in order.

The motion was granted last month, and the fee was increased to $132.

A spokesperson with the DPU wrote the emergency increase was granted to "ensure there are enough services for police-ordered towing" during the upcoming winter.

The MassPIRG is calling on the DPU to implement changes that would protect drivers.

What to do if your car is towed

Wrongfully or not, retrieving a towed vehicle can be a hassle.

If your vehicle is towed after parking in a "No Parking" zone or other legitimate reason, there are a few steps to take to get it back.

Steps to take when your car is towed:

Try to figure out why your car was towed. Did you not see a posted "No Parking" sign? Did you miss a car payment? Did you return to a lot where you have unpaid citations? Finding the reason can narrow down the phone numbers to dial.
Locate the vehicle. Most states, cities, or counties require towing companies to leave some form of contact information via a posted sign or sent by mail.
Recovery dates and times depend on the company that towed the vehicle, but those times will be posted to the website or can be recited by a representative.
Pay the fees. Be careful to be as prompt as possible, as some tow yards may charge storage fees by the day.

If you feel your vehicle was wrongfully towed, contesting the action can be done with the following steps:

Be prompt - many states have a small window of time where it's acceptable to file a complaint against a company that wrongfully towed the vehicle.
Gather supporting documents: photos, emails, receipts, police reports, and witness statements if applicable. The more evidence, the better.
Get familiar with your local laws, as laws for towing companies vary per state.
Try speaking with the towing company. Sometimes it may have been a simple oversight, and the matter can be resolved quickly.
Contact the Justice of the Peace in your area, as they may have more insight or resources to help. They are often utilized for towing cases.
Talk to a lawyer. Many lawyers have free case consultations, and depending on the case, it may be worth it to utilize a lawyer.

Source: Oregon Department of Justice, National General, Rak Law Firm

The organization wants to see drivers be able to retrieve important items from their vehicles in an impound lot, even if they can't or haven't paid the storage fee.

This, MassPIRG says, will ensure that drivers can still get their child's car seat, medication, identifying information, or house keys from their cars.

They also call on the DPU to mandate towing companies to take pictures of vehicles before towing to prevent unlawful towing.

They also want the agency to ensure companies can't charge drivers for anything other than towing and storage fees since companies have been documented charging for "admin" fees.

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