Ohio lawmakers pursue action to thwart predatory towing

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/6/2014

An effort at the Ohio statehouse is intended to protect truckers and other drivers from being victimized by dishonest tow truck operators.

Reps. Heather Bishoff, D-Blacklick, and Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, introduced a bill that covers concerns about predatory towing.

One provision would prohibit tow companies from charging fees not explicitly authorized in Ohio law.

A separate provision would require that tow companies inform people of their rights. For example, if the driver arrives while the tow operator is in the process of hauling off the vehicle, the tow operator would be required to notify the driver that they can immediately pay half and get the vehicle back.

Bishoff acknowledged that great tow truck operators exist in the state but she said they cannot compete with the unfair practices of predatory companies.

“It is time to ensure Ohioans receive fair treatment as vehicle owners and to ensure that good operators are not put at a disadvantage compared to those who operate illegally,” Bishoff said in a news release.

Another provision would provide a 24-hour grace period for vehicle storage fees.

The bill would also limit how far a vehicle can be towed. Specifically, towed vehicles could only be moved up to 15 miles away. If there isn’t a facility available, vehicles could be towed as far away as 25 miles.

In addition, tow operators would be required to snap at least one photo of the vehicle showing it is parked illegally. The date and time of the photo would also need to be recorded.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio would also be given rule-making authority for enforcement.

“Now is the time to pass legislation to establish consumer protections for Ohio vehicle owners against predatory towing,” Duffey stated.

The bill, HB382, awaits assignment to committee in the House.

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