CAA fights for mo­torist rights through tow­ing bill of rights

The Niagara Falls Review - - Local - PAUL FORSYTH Metroland

CAA Ni­a­gara hopes to pro­tect mo­torists in this re­gion against bad ap­ples in the tow­ing in­dus­try who may try to take ad­van­tage of them when they’re most vul­ner­a­ble, by join­ing with its sis­ter CAA club in south cen­tral On­tario in launch­ing a new “tow­ing bill of rights.”

The move, in part­ner­ship with the provin­cial tow­ing as­so­ci­a­tion rep­re­sent­ing tow truck op­er­a­tors, comes on the heels of hor­ror sto­ries in­volv­ing mo­torists preyed upon by un­eth­i­cal tow op­er­a­tors.

One me­dia re­port last year in­volved a man with a flat tire who had his car towed from Guelph to Mis­sis­sauga, with the tow oper­a­tor and body shop re­fus­ing to re­lease his car un­til the drive coughed up $13,000 in unau­tho­rized re­pairs.

CAA Ni­a­gara an­nounced the new bill of rights ini­tia­tive on Aug. 22, say­ing it’s vi­tal that drivers be­come ed­u­cated about rights they have un­der new On­tario law.

That pro­tec­tion can be as sim­ple as re­mem­ber­ing eight sim­ple points for mo­torists, CAA said.

A poll con­ducted by CAA South Cen­tral On­tario found only half of On­tario drivers feel ed­u­cated about their rights if they re­quire a tow or road­side as­sis­tance. Drivers also worry about is­sues such as be­ing charged un­rea­son­ably high fees or be­ing mis­led and told by tow truck op­er­a­tors that in­sur­ance will cover costs when it doesn’t, CAA Ni­a­gara said.

“We’ve seen drivers in very stress­ful sit­u­a­tions af­ter a col­li­sion or ve­hi­cle is­sues, and they re­act to the first tow truck that ar­rives on scene,” Bill Wil­lard, CAA Ni­a­gara vice-pres­i­dent of au­to­mo­tive ser­vices, said in a news re­lease.

“The Tow­ing Bill of Rights is a quick and easy ref­er­ence guide to help put the power and knowl­edge back in the hands of the con­sumers,” he said.

The guide, de­signed to fit into a glove box, out­lines provin­cial rules and reg­u­la­tions to pro­tect con­sumers, in a con­sumer­friendly way.

In part­ner­ship with the provin­cial tow­ing as­so­ci­a­tion, CAA will dis­trib­ute more than 10,000 ref­er­ence cards to mo­torists across the province. CAA Ni­a­gara will also be dis­tribut­ing up­dated ‘Slow Down, Move Over, Save Lives’ de­cals to lo­cal tow com­pa­nies and plac­ing them on its own fleet ve­hi­cles.

Joey Gagne, pres­i­dent of the provin­cial tow­ing as­so­ci­a­tion, said at a news con­fer­ence an­nounc­ing the new bill of rights ini­tia­tive that there are tow truck op­er­a­tors who prey on vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

“We’re try­ing to get the pub­lic to be more in­formed, to watch for the bad ap­ples,” he said.

“The con­sumer, the mo­torist, is not ed­u­cated, so they don’t know what they’re in for and they don’t know how to pro­tect them­selves.”

He said it’s crit­i­cal that mo­torists know their rights and that tow truck drivers un­der­stand ex­actly what is ex­pected of them. The bill of rights states:

• You have the right to de­cide who can tow your ve­hi­cle and to what lo­ca­tion, un­less other­wise di­rected by po­lice.

• A per­mis­sion to tow form must be signed be­fore tow­ing starts, un­less you have an auto club mem­ber­ship.

• The tow­ing com­pany must pro­vide you with an item­ized in­voice, be­fore re­ceiv­ing pay­ment.

• The fi­nal bill can­not be more than 10 per cent above the quoted price.

• If you choose, you can pay by credit card.

• Dur­ing busi­ness hours, you can ac­cess your ve­hi­cle to get your per­sonal items, while it’s stored at a tow­ing fa­cil­ity.

• A tow oper­a­tor must no­tify you where your ve­hi­cle will be towed.

• Tow op­er­a­tors must dis­close if they are re­ceiv­ing a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive for tow­ing your ve­hi­cle to a par­tic­u­lar ve­hi­cle stor­age fa­cil­ity or re­pair shop.

The bill of rights is based on spe­cific rules and reg­u­la­tions set by the province through the Fight­ing Fraud and Re­duc­ing Au­to­mo­bile In­sur­ance Rates Act.

CAA NI­A­GARA PHOTO

CAA Ni­a­gara pres­i­dent and CEO Peter Van Hezewyk and fleet man­ager Bill Tripp are shown with some of the CAA fleet. The Ni­a­gara mo­tor ad­vo­cacy agency has joined its coun­ter­part in south cen­tral On­tario and the provin­cial tow­ing as­so­ci­a­tion in launch­ing a new tow­ing bill of rights.

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