States allow "kickbacks" for reporting cars for towing, PIRG says

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Tow motortruck companies are slipping wealth nether the array to radical who study illegally parked cars, creating incentives for abuse, according to a report from a user watchdog radical that is pushing states to prohibition the practice.

California, Texas and 14 different states person authorities that prohibit alleged "kickbacks" from towing companies, according to a study from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group released Wednesday. The nonprofit is calling for the remaining 34 states — including Arizona, Louisiana and Ohio — to walk akin measures.

If much states don't walk a ban, tow companies volition apt proceed their "predatory towing" practices, PIRG said. 

"You're having cars being towed that truly aren't causing an issue," Teresa Murray, a PIRG user watchdog, told CBS MoneyWatch. "But whenever you person an inducement to telephone a tow company, past atrocious things happen."

Tow companies marque wealth by charging betwixt $200 and $300 to a vehicle's proprietor erstwhile they travel to retrieve their car from an impound lot. Murray said immoderate companies don't caput passing $20 — oregon adjacent $50 — to radical if it encourages them to telephone and constituent retired much cars to tow.

Gas theft reported crossed the state arsenic prices soar 04:10

Drivers typically get their car towed for illegally parking connected backstage property, unpaid tickets oregon an expired conveyance registration.
But immoderate companies could beryllium abusing their power, Murray said. She said PIRG has received complaints from drivers that immoderate tow companies haul distant vehicles for insignificant offenses, similar debased aerial successful tires.

Some tow motortruck drivers are adjacent patrolling assemblage towns, elder national complexes, neighborhoods populated by radical of colour and low-income communities successful hunt of vehicles to take, Murray said. He believes tow companies absorption connected those communities due to the fact that they deliberation the radical determination won't person the clip oregon resources to combat being targeted for a tow.

"A batch of cases we perceive astir are idiosyncratic conscionable successful a parking abstraction for 5 minutes," she said. "They're conscionable preying connected people." 

Towing kickbacks are communal crossed the nation, PIRG said, but Murray specifically noted a caller lawsuit successful Detroit involving constabulary officers. 

In the Detroit case, 3 erstwhile constabulary officials person been accused of calling to person cars towed, and moving unneurotic with the towing institution to person cars beryllium successful an impound batch for weeks, racking up fees. The tow institution would past hike up the retention interest erstwhile owners came to retrieve their vehicles.

The officers are accused of receiving thousands of dollars successful kickbacks nether the scheme, according to a national indictment. 

Vehicle towing is already a lucrative concern successful the U.S. Automotive towing is projected to go an $11 cardinal manufacture this year, up from $10 cardinal successful 2020, according to IBISWorld.

There are often justified reasons for towing someone's car — similar if it's blocking exigency section parking spaces astatine a infirmary oregon occupying assigned spaces astatine an flat complex. Murray said PIRG is not pushing for a implicit prohibition connected each conveyance towing. Most towing companies are doing their jobs ethically, she said, but the study aims to halt the fistful of businesses that aren't. 

Khristopher J. Brooks

Khristopher J. Brooks is simply a newsman for CBS MoneyWatch covering business, user and fiscal stories that scope from economical inequality and lodging issues to bankruptcies and the concern of sports.