The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) is telling motorists in Ontario that recently introduced rules now protect them from excessive towing fees. The reminder comes after an Ottawa couple was handed a $4000 towing bill, which went against the rules. Ultimately, the couple was refunded by the CBC.
"A lot of consumers were being subjected to excessive costs and very little information, and no access to their vehicles," said Elliott Silverstein, CAA's manager of government and community relations.
"And as of Jan. 1, the rules have changed that motorists are required to sign authorization before towing commences, and also receive an estimate for the costs that are going to be incurred, and the costs cannot be more than 10 per cent at the end of the day beyond what was initially quoted."
The changes to legislation came into effect on Jan. 1 as part of Ontario’s Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act. The bill is designed to protect consumers from unregulated towing companies who charge too much.
Drivers involved in a collision or have general vehicle issue now have the following regulations in place:
- Have permission from the consumer/driver or someone acting on their behalf before towing or storing a vehicle.
- Publicly disclose rates and other information such as the provider's name and telephone number on tow trucks as well as in places of business.
- Accept credit card payments from consumers.
- Notify consumers where their vehicle will be towed.
- Allow consumers to access their towed vehicles to remove personal property at no charge between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on all business days.
- Give consumers an itemized invoice listing the services provided and costs before receiving payment.
- Disclose if they are getting a financial incentive for towing a vehicle to a particular vehicle storage facility or repair shop.
"At the end of the day the design is to provide consumers with better choice, better information. But also [to] give them the opportunity to know that they're not going to be held for these excessive costs," said Silverstein.
"If you have a preferred vendor — whether it be an auto club or your car dealership having a service — making sure you have that information handy, because letting somebody know that you have that type of service could also save you hundreds of dollars in the end as well," he added.