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Legislation in Virginia General Assembly Would Be Major Gift to Predatory Towing Industry

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Apparently, our friends in the predatory towing industry are hard at work these days, not just engaging in their less-than-popular (to put it mildly) towing practices, but also in twisting arms in the Virginia General Assembly to try to get more $$$ and other goodies to benefit their industry. For instance, check out this proposed legislation from Del. Tim Hugo (R) and Sen. Dave Marsden (D).

Tow truck drivers and towing and recovery operators; requirements; penalties. Creates a civil penalty of $100 to be paid into the Literary Fund for any tow truck driver or towing and recovery operator convicted of improperly towing. The bill exempts Planning District 8 (Northern Virginia) from any requirement by a towing advisory board for written authorization in addition to a written contract in the event that a vehicle is being removed from private property. The bill requires that a tow truck driver immediately notify the animal control office in the locality from which the vehicle is being towed if the vehicle is occupied by a companion animal. The bill raises the hookup and initial towing fee in Planning District 8 (Northern Virginia) from $135 to $150. The bill requires the chairman of any towing advisory board within Planning District 8 (Northern Virginia) to be a representative of a licensed towing and recovery operator and limits the membership of such boards to only representatives of local law-enforcement agencies, representatives of licensed towing and recovery operators, and one member of the general public. The bill adds improper towing as a prohibited act under the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (§ 59.1-196 et seq.).

Just a few problems with this.

  • It raises tow rates on all District 8 localities (aka, Northern Virginia) for the second year in a row – up to $200 – without any fair market analysis to justify the hike .
  • It prohibits citizen leadership of local Towing Advisory Boards, instead requiring that the chair be a tow operator: a classic case of the foxes guarding the henhouse if there ever was one!
  • It removes the authority for Northern Virginia localities to implement the consumer protection of real-time authorization of individual tows (a measure to combat predatory towing and “spotting,” where the towers lurk and hook up the car the moment a parker steps off the property).
  • It has an incredibly weak provision requiring that a “tow truck driver immediately notify the animal control office in the locality from which the vehicle is being towed if the vehicle is occupied by a companion animal.” Uh, excuse me? Tow truck drivers get to tow your vehicle even if your dog(s) are in the vehicle??? I don’t know about you, but to me that’s wayyyy beyond unacceptable. How about, instead of this namby-pamby b.s. language, a strict prohibition on tow truck drivers towing ANY VEHICLE with a pet (or, obviously, a child!) inside???

Note that predatory lenders are a major issue in more urban areas like Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County, generating a high degree of anger and complaints from residents. For some background, check out Gone in 60 Seconds: Predatory towing has lawmakers demanding change, Predatory towing victimizes residents, Letter: Changes to towing ordinance provide protections for public, Advanced Towing: Rip-off Artists? Or Fair Parking Enforcers?, Beyer’s Predatory Towing Bill Added to Transportation Package, Arlington Co. officials aim to curb ‘predatory towing’, etc, etc. Oh, and let your General Assembly members know you don’t want them to pass this legislation!