Ohio bill targets predatory towers

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/6/2014

An Ohio House bill would protect truckers and other drivers from being victimized by dishonest tow truck operators.

Sponsored by Reps. Heather Bishoff, D-Blacklick, and Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, the bill 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 drivers arrive while the tow operators are in the process of hauling off the vehicle, the tower would be required to notify the drivers that they can immediately pay half and get the vehicle back.

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

“The ‘wild, wild West’ of towing should be regulated more thoroughly than it is right now,” Duffey said in a news release. “We want to legitimize the hardworking, honest operators and we want to increase penalties and be a little bit more regulatory on the bad actors that are out there.”

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.

“Essentially what we’re trying to do is modernize the towing structure in Ohio and protect vehicle owners from predatory towing practices,” Duffey stated.

The bill, HB382, is in the House Commerce, Labor and Technology Committee.

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