This is our page for participating in the public discussion on the tactics of tow company operators and the inattention of our elected representatives, courts and insurance companies in bringing justice and fairness to the people. Who are the people? If you drive a car and ever have to park it, you're one the people. Like every car owner you run a risk of having your car stolen; making you one of the people. We start with two links you might be interested in viewing for more news on the towing industry.
Towing industry news —A towing company association manages this site. Any news affecting towing companies seems to find its way to this page.
Knoxville Class Action Suit — This site is maintained by an investigative journalist in Knoxville who seems to be from a family of lawyers. In the midst of the anger, frustration, and outrage that Knoxville citizens feel about the tactics of their local towing companies, the site shows a sense of humor.
now, 10 years after our experience and countless other abuses, the
Seattle City Council set a limit, or sorts. Sept. 24, 2012 Seattle Times Headline: Seattle City Council caps towing fees for vehicles on private property: The Seattle City Council approved a cap on towing rates and impound fees Monday.
And now, to our story …
Julene T. Weaver
John E. Perkins, Ph.D.
5201 22nd Ave NE #201
Seattle WA 98105
December 29, 2002
Assistant Police Chief Nicholas Metz
Seattle Justice Center, MS 02-05-01
600 Fifth Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Councilmember Jim Compton [see his response]
Seattle City Council
600 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98104-1876
Re: Proposal for Seattle Police Department
Dear Assistant Chief Metz and Councilmember Compton:
We recently had our car stolen (details attached). Because of what we went through we have a proposal for the Seattle Police Department (SPD).
police department plays a pivotal role in recovering stolen cars and
informing auto-theft victims of what thieves may do with their cars
before they may be recovered. The police know more about what happens
to stolen cars than the great majority of victims. The police know that
stolen cars might be used in additional crimes, taken to “chop shops”
where the parts are removed and sold, etc. They are also aware that
fees for towing the car if and when it is recovered may differ
depending on who requests the towing and where the car is found.
that the SPD have a written description of what may happen to a stolen
car. This written description need be no more than a single sheet of
paper listing the various possibilities for recovering a stolen car and
the range of costs of recovery and to whom that money would be paid.
(We had already begun to plan how we would cope with the worst
scenarios we could imagine.)
The officer who did the
initial paper work with us and the back of our pink Vehicle Report both
fail to mention the costs of releasing a properly reported stolen car towed from private property could be three times higher
than if it was towed by the police. When we did recover our car we felt
doubly victimized, once by the thieves and once by the towing company.
Plus, the tone used on the back of the Vehicle Report makes being a victim of car theft no different than being the owner of an illegally parked car when in reality there is a big difference. As victimize owners, we find that tone insensitive.
assume that better customer service is a goal of the SPD. We write this
as a friendly suggestion to help the SPD provide better customer
service. Please keep us informed on the progress of this proposal
through the department.
Julene T. Weaver John E. Perkins
CC: Nick Lacata, Councilmember
Richard Conlin, Councilmember [see his response]
Thomas Carr, City Attorney
Seattle News Media
Julene T. Weaver
John E. Perkins, Ph.D.
5201 22nd Ave NE #201
Seattle WA 98105
Wednesday, January 1, 2003
Mr. Mark Kawabata CSCA/Public Affairs
State Farm Insurance
Dupont, WA 98327-5000
Ms. Janet Ray
AAA of Washington
Janet Ray <email@example.com>
Dear Mr. Kawabata and Ms. Ray:
We recently had our car stolen (details attached). For this type of loss we are self-insured, in other words, we do not carry theft insurance through our State Farm policy. We do have Triple A and used their battery service to replace our stolen battery.
experience raised our awareness that there is no effective regulation
of towing companies. We believe this is an area which needs the
sustained attention and leadership only the insurance industry can
provide. After we had to deal with the uncertainties, inconvenience and
loss of the use of our car while we waited for it’s recovery, we were
“victimized” again by the towing company when we recovered it. The
towing company took unfair advantage. We were charged three times
more because the car was recovered on private property than if it had
been found by the police on a public street. Plus, to challenge the
towing company’s fees in court would cost us a $41 filing fee. And
we’re the victims of this crime!
companies exploit a gray area since neither the state nor the federal
government regulate what they charge car-theft victims. Most people,
even ones who dealt with us in their official capacities, believe “the
insurance companies” will cover the costs. Detailed national statistics
compiling the costs to insurance companies of tow companies taking
unfair advantage are difficult to find. With over a million cars stolen
a year, even allowing for recovery by the police or no recovery at all,
the remaining number of cars recovered from private property would
still be quite high. The costs to insurance companies when towing
companies take unfair advantage must be in the very high millions—if
not billions—of dollars annually.
The towing companies
take advantage of the diffused responsibilities for coping with car
theft—specific car owners will not be able to see the whole pattern,
and many share the costs of recovery through the deductible-coverage
arrangement of their policies. But insurance companies can see the
pattern because they pay the claims.
Our proposal would
end this abuse of the victims of car theft and help insurance companies
lower their expenses. We make an analogy between the theft of a credit
card and the theft of a car. Beginning with the Consumer Credit
Protection Act of 1968 the concept of “fairness” has been written into
consumer credit law. For example, victims of credit card theft are not
liable for more than $50 per card if they report the theft of their
cards in a timely manner. That’s fair. We propose that the insurance
industry work to enact a similar law capping what towing companies can
charge for the recovery of a stolen car.
We propose that such a law include:
(1) A single fee for towing and storage of a properly reported stolen vehicle consistent with the contracted rates charged for recovered stolen vehicles towed from public property.
(2) The fee should include a grace period before the towing company can start charging for storage. This grace period should start when the police inform the owners that the car has been recovered, not from when the towing company first tows the car. This way owners are not penalized for the time lag between when the car is towed and the police recognize that it is reported as stolen. We suggest 72 hours or three days. In our case, the car was towed on Monday at 5:30 PM and the towing company reported the plates to the police. The police called us just after 3 PM the next day, almost 24 hours later. We called the towing company before 5 PM but were told it was “closed” and we had to call back for an appointment on the next day, Christmas. We were not told at the time this would add another day of storage fees to the recovery bill.
(3) Once an owner indicates readiness to recover the car, storage fees should be stopped. If it’s within the grace period then there should be no fees for storage. We reason that since towing companies tow 24 hours a day, then they are clearly conducting business and therefore should be available for the recovery of cars the same period of time. As owners, we feel it was unfair to be penalized an additional day of storage because the tow company felt it was “inconvenient” to return the car on Tuesday.
(4) The daily rate a towing company can charge after the grace period covered by the proposed basic fee should be fair and reasonable.
(5) Should a towing company seek additional fees, the burden of proof should rest with them to prove the merits of their claims. In other words, they must release the vehicle and take up with insurance companies or the courts any additional charges they feel they have a right to. Currently, the burden of proof is on the owner. This rule would discourage exorbitant phantom fees towing companies might add in order to side step the limits on their charges.
(6) Failing to release the car when the owner is ready to get it and pay the standard charges should subject towing companies to fines and possibly the forfeiture of their business licenses. Enforcing this rule will help dissuade towing companies from charging what they will.
we have a compassionate concern for people with diminished financial
resources and no extra money for emergency expenses. Recovering a
stolen car could drive them further into poverty because towing
companies’ charges accumulate at a rapid rate. By the time they can get
enough money together the total fees may have risen out of their reach.
These fees cause needless hardship on people who require a car to seek
work or to get to their jobs. Perhaps any fines collected from towing
companies could go into a pool to help poor people recover their stolen
With billions of dollars at stake, we know it may not be simple or easy to get effective regulation of the towing industry. Still, we hope you join us in our belief that creating a fairer, less costly system is well worth your efforts and ours. Please keep us informed on your progress with this proposal.
Julene T. Weaver John E. Perkins
cc: State Farm Insurance Agents Lucho and Jett Singh
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler
National Association of Independent Insurers, NW Regional Office
Attorney General Christine Gregoire
Seattle City Attorney Thomas Carr
Councilmember Nick Lacata
Councilmember Jim Compton
Councilmember Richard Conlin
Details About Stolen Car
From SPD Theft Report:
Date and time car stolen: Saturday, December 21 between 1:30 AM and 8:00 AM. Address stolen from: XXXXXXX
Recorded by Seattle Police Department: 12-21-02 0842.
Incident Number: 02-570136.
License number: QQQQQQ. State: WA Registration Year: 2003.
TAB ZZZZZZZZ. VIN: YYYYYYYYYYY Year: ----- Make: Toyota Model: ------- Style: ---- Color: ---------
Insurer: State Farm #123-456-789-AB Phone: 206 ------------
Doors Locked: Yes. Keys in Ignition? No. Ignition Locked? Yes
Investigating Officer: Mike Hope, 6396 422.
From SPD Recovery Report:
Summary of recovery: “Vehicle was towed off private property. Discovered stolen thru records. Left at tow lot. Driveable, both plates.” Condition of recovery? Undamaged. How started: Unknown. Auto accessories removed: Unknown. Trunk examined by impounding officer? No. Property removed from vehicle and placed in evidence? No. Investigating officer: E Schubeck 6696/421.
Towing Company: E.T. Towing 3831 - 4th Ave NE Seattle. 206 622-1111. Recovering the car: E.T. Towing towed the car at 5:30 PM on Monday, 12/23. Police left phone message that car was recovered around 3:51 PM Tuesday, 12/24. We call the police back before 5 PM and then called E.T. Towing. We were ready to pick up the car, but E.T. Towing’s driver said they were “closed” but we could pick up the car the next day, Christmas. This costs us an additional day of “storage.” Total towing and storage charges: $331.84. Car’s condition: The battery was stolen ($150 top-of-the-line Interstate Optima Gel), along with some tools and a few other items. AAA’s battery service installed new battery. Cost: $102.26. Total to towing company and AAA: $434.10
This was Jim Compton's Response:
this was richard conlin's response: