Connecticut Supreme Court: Towing and recovery services can be regulated

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 7/15/2016

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled the state can regulate the fees that towing companies charge for nonconsensual towing and recovery services.

The state court’s decision stemmed from a dispute between Modzelewski’s Towing and Recovery and Connecticut’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Modzelewski’s had been ordered to reimburse $12,787 in overcharges from a tow and recovery in September 2011. The tow operator argued that the state could regulate the prices for the actual tow but not for the recovery or storage fees.

Modzelewski’s Towing and Recovery appealed the reimbursement order. The appeals court ruled that the Department of Motor Vehicles couldn’t regulate the pre-tow and post-tow services. If the Connecticut Supreme Court had agreed, towing companies would have been able to charge any price they wanted for services that came before and after a nonconsensual tow. Instead, the state supreme court upheld the $12,787 refund.

“This is a pretty significant ruling,” said Mike Matousek, the director of state legislative affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “This is bigger than one company.”

Connecticut’s high court said the reason nonconsensual tows are regulated is to prevent consumers from being charged too much.

“Separating two closely related parts of the towing process by allowing state regulation to prevent exorbitant fees for the actual towing but not for the recovery services that enable the towing to take place simply makes no sense, given the inextricable relationship between recovery services and the actual towing,” the court wrote. “We therefore conclude that state laws regulating the fees charged for recovery services performed in connection with a nonconsensual towing are not pre-empted by federal law.”

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