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Archive for Thursday, April 26, 2012

County forming panel to study towing prices

District attorney urges commission to take action on ‘untenable’ situation

April 26, 2012

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The Douglas County district attorney urged the Douglas County Commission to do something about the over-the-top prices some tow companies are charging motorists.

“We’ve got a situation that is currently untenable,” said Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson. “You are asking consumers to play Russian roulette with their pocketbooks every time they get towed.”

Branson’s pleas for action were echoed by towing companies.

“We agree something needs to be done with the pricing going on because it is not right,” said Troy Gentry with 19th Street Tow and Recovery.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the County Commission said it would form a committee of county and city officials to look at ways to better protect customers from outrageous towing bills.

“This is a topic that has caused people to stop me in the streets,” Commissioner Nancy Thellman said.

At a scene of an accident, motorists can choose whatever towing company they want to haul their vehicle away. But if the owner doesn’t have a preference, the county’s emergency dispatch will choose a company based on a rotating list of about 10 different towing companies.

The Lawrence Journal-World recently reported about one Douglas County resident who paid $1,110 for a minivan to be towed six miles after an accident.

“There is such a disparity in what is going on here, it cries out for attention, and action needs to be taken,” Branson told the commission.

Legally, the district attorney’s office is restricted from pursuing consumer protection charges, and the 1995 federal Motor Carrier Act prohibits governments from putting limits on the price, route or service of towing companies.

County staff proposed several ways to help alleviate the problem. One would be to follow the example of the Wichita Police Department, which hands out a pricing sheet to help motorists choose which towing company they want to use.

Law enforcement could also treat every tow from an accident as one where the customer doesn’t have a preference and then use towing companies that have entered into a contract with the county. That contract could include a set pricing agreement. This is the method being used by Lenexa and Overland Park.

County counselor Evan Ice recommended that instead of having the County Commission pass an ordinance, the sheriff’s office should adopt a policy to provide pricing information at the scene of accidents.

At Wednesday’s meeting, representatives from towing companies agreed that something needed to be done but weren’t quite sure if the county had the right policies in mind.

Gentry said that it would be hard to set one price on a tow because the kinds of accidents and locations can be so different.

“Some accidents are simple and take five minutes. Some are very bad and take two hours to do,” he said.

Jerry Taylor with Hillcrest Wrecker and Garage believes the county needs to set higher standards for getting onto the rotation list. Right now, Taylor said, there are companies on the list that are out of business or some that only do jump starts.

In the more than three decades that Taylor has been in business, there has typically been just three or four companies on the rotation list. Today, he said, there are nine of them.

“What it does for those of us trying to make a living at this, when you go from four on the rotation to nine, now you have less business and exorbitant prices to stay in business,” he said.

Comments

Fluffhead 1 year, 11 months ago

Midwest tow is definitely one of the worst. I got in a car accident on 23rd st right by Haskell, and they charged $250 just for mileage, and their business is not even a mile away. My car was in their lot for a little under two days, and I was charged $1800. Thankfully I had car insurance and State Farm took care of it, but it's beyond ridiculous. The owners wife tried to make me fell better by telling me how they are family business, and that all 3 of their kids go to public schools in Lawrence and that I can trust them. So at least we know that one of the tow companies who is doing the raping is at least pro Lawrence!!

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busymommy 1 year, 11 months ago

I called around and university tow was my pick the # in my phone if i ever need them 785 331-4413. if u get in a wreck just tell poilce you want University Tow. They even helped a friend of my sisters when she didnt have full coverage insurance and wrecker her car it was like $50 and they got rid of the car she could drive no more. Super nice people and helpful.

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tbaker 1 year, 11 months ago

Son's pick-up broke down Monday afternoon along 24 highway. University Towing came out. 2.5 cents a mile, $50 hook up. Seemed OK to me.

Panel? Bad idea. We don't need another government entity doing what the free market does much better already. The solution is so simple; it’s called “shopping.” Those who cannot otherwise navigate the impenetrable mysteries of daily life get precisely what they deserve. If the government entity is the one calling the tow truck and then handing you the bill for it, then they need to negotiate a contract that is the lowest possible price, make the bidding public, and the decision to hire them open to the public debate.

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catfishturkeyhunter 1 year, 11 months ago

My favorite part is when some of the companies are told to take a car to a repair facility following an accident and instead take it to their lot and hold it hostage for a few days racking up storage fees.

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Liberal 1 year, 11 months ago

I have a solution....DO NOT PARK YOUR CAR IN A TOWING ZONE...

Seems simple to me.

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howie1 1 year, 11 months ago

Actually we do pay for some of these tow bills.... You have insurance dont you.... When these tow companies charge high prices and some tow companies double or triple the price when the insurance is taking over the bill it all goes to everyone elses insurance premium

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

The Flexible "ObamaTow" may be next.

Half the population will have to pay for the other half's tows.

Sound "stupid"?....and then there is The Flexible Obamacare where half of the population will have to pay.....

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Laura Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

The price list seems the easiest way to go. Why on earth would we need a panel for this? Just do it. Someone type up the prices and companies, make copies, give them to all the cops and deputies to keep in their cars to hand out. Relatively cheap and easy!

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consumer1 1 year, 11 months ago

Where have I seen the Motto, "let the buyer beware"??? Can someone help me out here? I don't want to be gouged any more than anyone else. But, I also don't want Gov't legislating everything.

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jnixon 1 year, 11 months ago

It's about time! No need for any study or a panel - this only leaves the dishonest tow companies more time to charge these outrageous prices. Be part of the solution not the problem.

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somedude20 1 year, 11 months ago

For the life of me I do not know why people don't get AAA. For about $90 a year I get 5 servicings (not the good kind) which includes five 100 mile tows. Folks, $90 bucks is lees than one tow in this town.

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bd 1 year, 11 months ago

I think lawyers charge too much too! Deal with that also!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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gr 1 year, 11 months ago

Forget about price setting or any other government interference. Let the market set the prices. Hand out a price list. A binding one. And if a tow company cannot set a fixed price, let it so be noted on the list. I doubt many would choose them.

I don't buy that they have to charge more to stay in business. If so, why are there additional businesses lining up to have a hard time to stay in business? Instead, they see a racket and want a cut. With truth in advertising, the market will determine who stays in business and who doesn't.

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biggunz 1 year, 11 months ago

So who was the company that charged $1100 for a 6 mile tow? Need to start naming names so people know who to avoid.

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geekin_topekan 1 year, 11 months ago

Kawatcher, there is nothing wrong with after hours service fees, the issue is the legal price gouging that is taking place here on a daily basis.

A panel? Are you bloody serious? The cure is simple, cheap and for 1/2 of each panels members daily salary for the duration of this in-depth study, I will give it to you.

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lily 1 year, 11 months ago

A price list would solve a lot. We paid a horrendous price to "the next one on the list". It was robbery to be towed a mile and pay what they charged. 3 months later we called another company when we got stuck on highway 10. They charged HALF of what the other company did and this was from out of town!!! Yes, something is seriously wrong.

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Kawatchi 1 year, 11 months ago

Even OP and Lenexa have their own issues. There might be a flat fee for the towing, but many of the towing companies there have a policy of charging "after hours service" to pick up your vehicle on a Saturday, which is clearly a very busy day with full office staff.

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irvan moore 1 year, 11 months ago

there are plenty of simple solutions that don't require a committee to rehash, the lenexa and overland park policy sounds reasonable

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Boston_Corbett 1 year, 11 months ago

I agree with LarryNative on this one. Just do it.

What we don't need is a policy which has been written by a bunch of tow companies.

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otto 1 year, 11 months ago

What are the names of the 9 on the list?

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JackMcKee 1 year, 11 months ago

If they put Corliss in charge we could really get some great ideas. We'd end up with a requirement that all tow trucks run on solar power and bunny farts. Tows would only cost $2,500 each.

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Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 11 months ago

A panel? Really? How's about calling tow companies and stating we will put you on our call list for a flat fee towing in the city for $75. If the tow service wants to be on the list, they agree, if not, not on the list. Outside city limits, $100 fee. Flat bed needed, add $25. Done. Next item if business.

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