AUSTIN — Houston and Dallas rank number one and two on the list of U.S. cities with the most hostile towing markets for consumers and Texas is the state most in need of pro-consumer towing reforms, according to a new national towing survey conducted by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).
The survey found that “creative” billing practices such as levying fees and charges simply to increase the bill and establishing high daily storage rates were 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 Robert Passmore, assistance vice president, policy, research and international for PCI.
“The outrageous bills from abusive towing companies drive up out-of-pocket expenses for consumers and impact auto insurance costs. While most towing firms are honest, well-intentioned operators, a few bad players have created widespread problems and cast the entire industry in a negative light. Our survey respondents identified over 120 cities across the country as being problematic. Because these problems occur in every state, insurers want to prepare motorists and arm them with the facts.”
The PCI 2018 National Towing Survey was conducted to shine a spotlight on the top concerns related to towing practices and provide a platform for educating consumers about their rights and the steps they can take to protect themselves from scams.
PCI 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. PCI 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:
Survey Quick Facts: