By Daniel Foster
In my last installment including motor vehicles and consumer rights, I would like to finish with a subject involving an area which few people have little understanding of their rights: TOW TRUCKS.
When your vehicle breaks down in the metropolitan area of Toronto, you could be left in a vulnerable position. If your car won’t start, and your car is not obstructing traffic, there is nothing to worry about. You can simply call your local auto club or whichever tow service provider you choose.
However, if you are involved in a minor accident, or your vehicle is in a precarious position on the roadway as such that the police deem it to be a hazard to other drivers, you will need to have it moved or towed by a tow company who is contracted by the city to do as the police officer directs; sometimes at your own expense.
Real problems occur when there are perhaps no police officers around and a tow truck driver is the only one on the scene. What most people do not know is that the tow truck industry is a regulated industry that is governed by municipal licensing laws that must be followed by the towing industry.
Tow truck drivers cannot charge you whatever they want!
In general, tow operators are required to carry a copy of a tariff card showing the applicable rates with the charges to be made to hirers of a tow truck for their services. This is to be shown to the hirer on demand. In other words, tow operators have set rates that have been previously registered with Municipal Licensing, and when asked, they must show those rates to you. No tow operator shall demand or request payment for his or her services other than in accordance with the applicable schedule of rates filed with the Municipal Licensing and Standards Division.
When towing vehicles (that weigh less than 6,000 pounds) from private property that have been parked, or left standing on the private property without the consent of the owner, no tow operator shall charge a fee exceeding $88.00. Despite the aforementioned, where a vehicle is released to the owner or driver of the vehicle after it has been attached to the tow truck but before it has been removed or towed from the private property, no tow operator shall charge a fee exceeding $37.50 for such service; and no tow operator shall charge or permit to be charged by or on behalf of any other person a fee for the storage of such vehicle exceeding $20 per day for each day or part of a day of storage.
When involving an accident, no tow operator shall charge or request a fee exceeding $166 from a city street. Where a vehicle is towed or removed from the scene of an accident on the Queen Elizabeth Way, the Gardiner Expressway, the Don Valley Parkway, Highway 400, Highway 401, Highway 404 or Highway 427, no tow operator shall charge or request a fee exceeding $188. Under the Highway Traffic Act, tow operators may not solicit business within 200m of an accident scene or vehicle, unless they have been called there by police or by another driver.
Finally, tow operators shall not charge or request any additional fees for or relating to:
- (a) The towing, removal or conveyance of a vehicle from a Collision Reporting Centre as directed by the hirer;
- (b) Any clean-up of the scene of the accident;
- (c) The use of any equipment in relation to the towing, removal or conveyance of the vehicle; and
- (d) Any service incidental to or arising from the towing, removal or conveyance of the vehicle.
In the future, be sure to ask for a complete written estimate from the driver before they hook your vehicle up. This will prevent a driver from charging you anything beyond what has been previously registered with municipal licensing.
Good luck and happy driving.
By Daniel Foster