Highway Pirates Watch Out: Bill 189 Is Here

Highway Pirates Watch Out:  Bill 189 Is Here

The Minister of Consumer Services, Tracy MacCharles introduced the Roadside Assistance Protection Act on April 15, 2014 to better protect consumers from fraudulent practices of some tow truck operators. Bill 189 hopes to tackle the fraudulent practices of pirate tow operators who contribute an estimated “$700 to the insurance bill of every driver in the GTA” as according to the Provincial Towing Association of Ontario (PTAO).

There have been complaints of consumers being charged inflated rates to have their cars towed at accident scenes. Reports of inflated prices are not uncommon or drivers find that their vehicles are towed to an extremely remote storage facility and they are faced with an “unexpectedly large” bill before they can access their car. This group of tow operators with unethical practices is also driving up the costs of “collision repairs and storage costs.

Don’t get it all twisted, there are still many reputable tow operators out there but beware that there are also the pirates who flourished under the historically lax regulation and potential profits to be reap. According to Cheney of the Globe and Mail: “Drivers can earn commissions of up to 20 per cent on everything from bodywork to legal services to medical care. Some drivers have told the PTAO about doctors offering them a flat fee of $1,000 for bringing in a new patient after an accident.”

What Does Bill 189 Do?

While the legislation does not strictly create a “licensing regime” for tow operators, it does put into place a few requirements to:

  • Have permission from a consumer or someone acting on behalf of the consumer before charging for towing and storage services
  • Publicly post prices and other information, like the operator’s name and contact information
  • Accept credit card payments from consumers
  • Provide an itemized invoice listing the services provided and the total cost

Play it Safe, Use Protection

In the meantime, here are some ways Cheney recommends to protect yourself from tow pirates:

  • If you crash or break down, call your insurance company’s hotline and ask to be referred to an approved tow operator and service centre.
  • Do not allow a tow operator to hook up your car without the approval of your insurance company.
  • Join a reputable roadside assistance program such as CAA. In exchange for a fixed annual fee, you will receive several tows as needed (details vary by specific program). Some car manufacturers also offer roadside assistance programs.
  • If your car is impounded by a tow operator who is demanding unreasonable fees, you can pay the contested amount to a provincial court, ask the court to release the car, and wait for a ruling.
Pagan is a Paralegal student at Centennial College in Toronto studying professional communications with Omar Ha-Redeye.

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