Texas is the state most in need of “pro-consumer towing reforms,” and Dallas ranked second in on a list of U.S. cities with the most “hostile towing market” for consumers, according to a new national survey by the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).
“The survey found that ‘creative’ billing practices such as levying fees and charges simply to increase the bill and establishing high daily storage rates were the worst problems consumers and insurers face when dealing with towing companies,” PCI noted in a news release.
“When a shady towing company gets a vehicle on its hook, the owner and insurer may be facing staggering bills and confusing rules to reclaim the vehicle,” Robert Passmore, PCI assistant vice president, said in the news release.
PCI did not respond to an NBC DFW inquiry that requested clarification of whether ‘Dallas’ refers to the City or the region.
In Dallas, the maximum amount that can be charged for what is called the “private property, light duty, non-consent towing fee” is $121. That is the flat fee that will be assessed on someone whose vehicle is towed from a private lot within the Dallas city limits.
By the time a towing company adds on its own charges, including a daily storage rate, the amount that someone must pay in order to claim their car is typically around $165, according to a representative of a prominent auto towing business that operates in the City of Dallas.
By comparison, many other cities in North Texas allow for towing companies to charge $250 for the private property, light duty, non-consent towing fee. That is the maximum amount allowed by state law, according to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
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After the addition of other fees, the charge for someone who is towed from many North Texas cities is nearly $300.
That is what Susan Allen had to pay last Friday morning to reclaim her car after it was towed from her own apartment building’s parking garage.
According to Allen, she pays for a parking permit but the permit had apparently fallen off of her rearview mirror because she found it on the passenger seat floor once she was back in her car.
“I was really shocked at the price,” Allen said. “I live there…and for them to have told me the amount they charged was outrageous.”
“It is a very big inconvenience and a bad way to start your day, because I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t park where it said not to,” Allen said.
The representative for the unidentified towing company, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that what happened to Susan Allen would not have happened if her apartment complex was one that was monitored by their company.
They have access to a list of the license plate numbers of every vehicle that is authorized to be in the parking lots they patrol, the towing company representative said, so even if the parking permit had fallen down the license plate would have checked out.
Consumers with questions about towing laws or ways to dispute a tow, go here.