A car break-down on the road can be stressful enough, but thankfully there are new rules in Ontario to help protect drivers against fraudulent towing companies.
Starting this month, the province becomes responsible for certifying tow operators, drivers and vehicle storage operators.
As part of the certification, tow truck drivers will have to meet certain training, insurance and vehicle safety standards—as well as get a criminal record check. It also means that these individuals will be exempt from municipal business licensing by-laws.
“This is a consumer thing that we desperately need. I really hope it works, it’s a long time coming,” said the CEO of CAA Jeff Walker.
New customer rights will also be introduced that include providing consent to tow, choosing where a vehicle is towed, and rules surrounding accessing and paying for a vehicle.
Tow truck drivers, towing companies and vehicle storage providers must abide by a code of conduct and be certified to offer services in Ontario.
Here are some of the new rules that will protect consumers
As a consumer, you have rights related to:
- Providing consent to tow
- Where your vehicle is towed
- Accessing your vehicle
- Vehicle storage facilities
- Rates and payment
Getting a tow
Tow operators are now required by law to:
- Have a certificate to operate in Ontario
- Show the name of the company and the certificate number on all their tow trucks as well as on consent forms and invoices
Additionally, tow truck drivers must present a copy of their tow driver certificate upon request.
Consent to tow
Unless initiated by the police or authorized official (for example, if you are parked illegally), you have the right to:
- Choose which company can tow your vehicle (except in a restricted tow zone)
- Choose where your vehicle will be towed
Tow truck drivers and towing companies must do the following before moving your vehicle:
- Give you their rates (their maximum rate schedule)
- Give you a list of your rights as a customer
- Get your consent to tow on a form that includes:
- The name of the tow driver and operator
- The tow driver’s certificate number if they have one
- Their operator certificate number
- Give you an unaltered copy of the form that documents your consent and contains all information required from them by law
If the tow truck driver or towing company did not get your consent, they cannot charge you for towing services.
Once you give consent, they are not allowed to make changes to the agreement.
Towing your vehicle
Tow drivers must take:
- The most direct route when dropping your vehicle off at the location they have been instructed to bring it to
- Photographs of your vehicle if recovery services are provided (these photos are for record-keeping purposes only and tow drivers do not need to give you the photos)
- Reasonable precautions to avoid further damage to your vehicle
You are allowed access to your vehicle
You or the person acting on behalf of the owner should be allowed to access the vehicle unless police direct you not to access the vehicle.
Rates and payment
The rates for towing or vehicle storage services must be given to you before providing services. Operators must also post their rates:
- At their office or place of business
- On their website (if they have one)
- At the location where your vehicle is stored
The towing or storage operator cannot charge you more than their maximum listed rates.
When paying, you have the right to:
- See an itemized invoice before payment is requested, including
- Services provided (find out what items are required on the invoice)
- Cost of each service
- Total cost
- Choose your payment method, including credit card, debit card and cash
- Get a receipt after you pay
After receiving your vehicle, the storage operator must take steps to inform you or the owner of:
- Where the vehicle is being held with the location address
- How to retrieve your vehicle from the lot
- Contact information to help you retrieve it
The vehicle storage operator is allowed to give written notice:
- By email
- In person
- By mail or courier
Getting your vehicle back
After you make a request to get your vehicle back, the storage provider must make reasonable efforts to organize:
- A prompt release of your vehicle when they are open for business
- A release as soon as possible when they are not open for business
When the storage facility is not open for business, a storage provider may charge additional fees to access your vehicle outside of prescribed hours.
In most cases, if the storage lot operator does not notify you within 15 days after the day it receives your vehicle, the amount you have to pay will be limited to the cost of towing and storing your vehicle for that period.
The storage lot operator has a legal right to ask you for payment before giving you your vehicle back because they have a lien against your vehicle.
You can report a concern or file a complaint with the Ministry of Transportation by emailing email@example.com if you have an issue/
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