CAA SCO calls for further tow truck regulations in Ontario

Published: October 18, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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The south-central Ontario branch of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) wants the provincial government to create regulations to further reform the towing industry, following “continued instances of harrowing stories from motorists involving unscrupulous tow truck drivers on Ontario roads.”

CAA South Central Ontario (CAA SCO) released a statement on Wednesday says, “problems persist” despite the introduction of the Consumer Protection Act on Jan. 1, 2017, “with consumers being charged excess amounts and/or tow truck drivers not adhering to the new laws.”

That new legislation gave consumers the following protection:

  • 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.

However, CAA SCO contest there are still major problems and a regulation for central complaints:

“There currently isn’t a centralized forum for consumers to file complaints if they have been overcharged or subject to other problems with service,” said Elliott Silverstein, manager of government relations with CAA SCO. “As a result, motorists are reaching out to police, municipalities and other outlets, leading to an inconsistent process across Ontario. Provincial regulation would ensure much needed consistency and clarity for consumers.”

In August, the association commissioned a survey conducted by Ipsos over 1,001 Ontario drivers, questioning their knowledge of the towing industry regulations.

The research indicated that motorists are largely unfamiliar with their rights and do not feel overly protected,” CAA SCO said in the statement. “Drivers surveyed support the provincial government establishing rules and regulations that would be consistent in every municipality.”

When questioned about their concerns using a towing service:

  • 76% of respondents said “being charged an unreasonably high fee”;
  • 75% of those surveyed said “having to wait a long time”;
  • 64% cited “being misled and told by drivers that insurance will cover costs when it does not”; and
  • 61% were concerned about “being towed to a different location than the one specified.”