The Ontario government has introduced new rules for tow truck operators. Amendments to the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 intend to protect consumers from unscrupulous towing companies, reduce insurance fraud, and cut down on accidents involving tow trucks.
The change comes in response to widespread complaints of tow truck drivers charging inflated prices. Consumers say they feel pressured to pay high rates and succumb to predatory sales tactics on the scene of the accident. According to Consumer Services Minister Tracy MacCharles, “Some people have reported being faced with demands for hundreds of dollars in cash at the scene of an accident before the service was even provided.”
Tow trucks are also disproportionately involved in collisions. This is due in part to the competitive nature of the industry, with trucks racing to be first on the scene of an accident. Tow trucks have a shockingly high collision rate of 20 percent, with all other commercial vehicles at a rate of just one percent.
The legislative changes are an attempt to curb this behaviour and help consumers make informed decisions. As of January 1st, 2017, tow and storage operators have to get a consumer’s permission and disclose where the vehicle will be towed before providing services. The company must display its name and telephone number on the side of the truck and make current rates available to consumers.
If a consumer agrees to use the towing service, the company must provide an itemized invoice listing the cost of each service provided before the customer pays up. Companies must now accept credit card payments, preventing roadside demands for cash. Tow truck drivers are also prohibited from recommending repair and storage facilities, legal service providers, or health practitioners to their customers unless the customer asks for it.
“We’ve had so many reports about inflated prices by some, not all, but some tow truck drivers, and that is driving up the cost of collision repairs and storage costs, so that’s what we’re trying to get at on the fraud side,” says MacCharles.
The amendments also address the tow truck safety issue. Going forward, all tow truck operators are required to obtain $2 million in general liability insurance and $100,000 to insure customers’ vehicles. While this may not cut down on aggressive driving, it should help ensure that innocent drivers are compensated in the event of an accident.
Check out the Ministry of Consumer Services for more information on the new rules for tow trucks in Ontario.