10 things towing companies can't do under new Arizona law
A new law signed by Gov. Doug Ducey cracks down on bad behavior by Arizona towing companies and helps owners whose cars are towed after accidents to retrieve them with less hassle.
Drivers for years have complained about towing companies demanding cash payment, closing at odd hours, damaging cars and making it difficult for insurance adjusters to examine vehicles after accidents. When the law goes into effect, towing companies who engage in shady behavior will face the possibility of serious prosecution.
Parts of the law take effect Jan. 1, and parts go into effect later this summer, 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.
Things towing companies can't do anymore when your car is towed after an accident:
- Refuse to release a vehicle. Technically, Arizona's lien law already requires towing companies to release a vehicletowed from private property upon the owner's request, even if the owner hasn't paid yet. The owner must pay later. The new law clarifies that, in the case of towing following an accident, the towing company must release the vehicle the same day that the driver or insurance company provides proof of ownership, fills out a form and pays. Also, the company must accept an emailed release form.
- Demand cash. Towers must allow payment by credit card, debit card, insurance company-issued check or money order.
- Tow a car unnecessarily to the boonies. A vehicle in an accident must be taken to the nearest storage lot the tower has access to, unless the nearest lot is full or the driver or a police officer requests a different location.
- Charge without providing a list of fees. If a customer requests a detailed billing statement before noon, the company is required to provide it before the end of the day. If a tower fails to provide the billing statement the day it is requested, the company cannot charge fees until the receipt is provided.
- Close at odd hours. Towers must be open — or available by appointment — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. If a towing company appears closed during these hours, look for a sign that lists the phone number of the on-call attendant. Any time a tower is unavailable during these hours, the company cannot charge fees.
- Require payment to examine the vehicle or remove personal property. If a driver wants to look at the car (perhaps to report damage caused by the accident or by the towing company) or to retrieve sunglasses, paperwork or another item during normal business hours, the driver does not have to pay. This also applies to insurance companies and anyone designated in writing by the owner. But be careful: the tower is allowed to require the owner or insurance company to sign a liability waiver before removing personal property.
- Count the days in storage strangely. A storage day should be calculated from midnight of one day to midnight of the next day.
- Ignore rules in different cities. The towing company can only charge what is allowed by the city where the accident occurred or the fees negotiated in its towing contract.
- Blame a rogue employee. All actions by employees and contractors during their job are considered the responsibility of the towing company.
- Get away without prosecution. The Arizona Attorney General is authorized to crack down on violations of the law. Towers can be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor if they inappropriately refuse to release a vehicle twice in three years.
HB 2603, sponsored by Prescott Republican Rep. Noel Campbell, passed the state Legislature overwhelmingly with support from both parties.
Have you had a problem with a towing company? I'm part of the #HereToHelpAZ team. Contact consumer investigations reporter Rebekah L. Sanders by emailing email@example.com, texting HereToHelpAZ to 51555 or filling out our online form.
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