Douglas County representatives continue to collect information about what, if any, steps the county can take to prevent towing companies from overcharging local residents.
In July, the Lawrence Journal-World highlighted the case of a local man who was charged $675 for a tow after an minor accident in Lawrence.
The case underscored the lack of pricing regulations for towing companies on the county’s rotating tow call list for “non-preference” tows — when someone indicates they have no preference for which company to call.
Owner of Bulldog Tow, Jeff Jacobs, and his attorney met with county representatives in August to discuss possible regulations and more stringent requirements for what companies can be placed on the rotating list, which is maintained by Douglas County dispatch. Currently, a business must simply meet the basic requirements for operating a towing business to earn a place on the list, which currently has 10 companies on it.
“There needs to be some requirements,” Jacobs said. The tow companies “can charge whatever they want.”
Caitlin Stene, a management intern with Douglas County administrator’s office has been investigating the issue for the past couple of months. Stene said county officials still are collecting data and gathering information, and trying to parse out what the county can legally do.
“It’s a complicated law,” said Stene, referring to the 1995 federal Motor Carrier Act, that prohibits states from putting limits on towing charges.
But Sam Brewer, past president of the Professional Wrecker Operators of Florida, said those restrictions don’t pertain to the type of non-preference tows included in the rotation list system operated by Douglas County. Florida and California, for instance, have added pricing restrictions to laws designed to protect consumers.
But the state of Kansas hasn’t addressed the issue, Stene said, making it unclear what can be done at the county level.
Stene said her office will continue to look into options and then could make policy change recommendations. She said it’s an issue that’s “on the top of our list.”