If you live in Texas and have had a bad towing experience, this could shed some light on the situation. A new report names Texas as the state most in need of pro-consumer towing reforms. The 2021 National Towing Survey survey conducted by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) ranks Houston as number four and Dallas number five on the list of U.S. cites with the most hostile towing markets for consumers and insurers.
The APCIA says the study was designed to shine a spotlight on the top concerns related to towing practices as well as educating consumers about their rights and steps they can take to protect themselves from scams.
"Creative Billing" Practices
The APCIA survey cites “creative” billing practices such as levying fees and charges simply to increase a towing bill and establishing high daily storage rates as among the worst problems consumers and insurers face when dealing with towing companies. Other frequent problems consumers and insurers encounter include towing company practices that make it difficult to recover a vehicle or even gain access in order to get personal effects or commercial cargo.
“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,” said Robert Passmore, vice president, auto and claims policy for APCIA. “Outrageous bills from abusive towing companies can drive up out-of-pocket expenses for consumers and impact auto insurance costs. While most towing firms are honest, well-intentioned operators, a few bad players have created widespread problems and cast the entire industry in a negative light. Our survey respondents identified more than 75 cities across the country as being problematic. Because these problems occur in every state, insurers want to alert motorists and arm them with the facts.”
The APCIA has outlined four public policy solutions to help curb towing abuses:
- Eliminate the federal pre-emption on state regulation of accident and breakdown towing. This would allow states to protect their citizens from abusive towing practices and fees as they currently do for “non-consent” towing.
- Require invoices be itemized to list all charges on all tows. This provides transparency for vehicle owners and the ability to document abusive billing practices.
- Require clear information be provided to owners, and their insurers regarding the location and release procedures. This would include prohibiting storage fees for days when yard is not open for vehicles to be released.
- Prohibit “wreck chasing” tow trucks that arrive unsolicited at accident scenes.
The APCIA says after an accident, it's important to remember that if you need tow truck assistance you have options. It recommends reviewing your insurance coverage and discussing towing and repair options with your company or agent every year. APCIA has developed a checklist to help motorists who may require towing services.
The APCIA also warns consumers that scams often occur when a tow truck just shows up at the scene of an accident. It advises consumers to exercise their rights and options. Consumers have the following rights:
- You can refuse a tow for any reason.
- You may choose who will tow your vehicle.
- You decide where your vehicle will be towed.
- You should get an itemized statement of the charges.
- You should receive a copy of the towing authorization form.
APCIA offers ways consumers can protect themselves:
- If possible, try to move the vehicle out of traffic and get to a safe place.
- Explore your towing options before you go in case your vehicle breaks down or needs a tow after you leave home. Keep the contact information for your insurer and roadside assistance handy.
- If you leave your vehicle, remove or hide personal belongings or items that would be a target for theft such as electronics, purses, or other valuables
- Find out if the towing charge is a flat rate or by the mile and inquire about storage and other misc. fees and charges as well as how to gain access to the vehicle once it is towed.
About the APCIA
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) describes itself as the primary national trade association for home, auto, and business insurers. APCIA says it promotes and protects the viability of private competition for the benefit of consumers and insurers, with a legacy dating back 150 years. APCIA says its members represent all sizes, structures, and regions—protecting families, communities, and businesses in the U.S. and across the globe.
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