CAA fights for motorist rights through towing bill of rights
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 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.