Google+ Badge

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Are you a victim of predatory towing in Portland?

In Portland, you may be a victim of predatory towing and not even know it, not until now. Read further.

Tow trucks operating in Portland carry two sets of invoices in their trucks, one set for the tows they make that are subject to City of Portland regulations, and another set for those that are—heh heh—immune from the regulations.

They know which set to use on you, and you don’t. You don’t even know about the second set, and that is the way they like it.

Which invoice they use on you depends—believe it or not—on the number of parking slots in the lot.

If the parking lot holds ten or more parking spaces, then they are supposed to issue you an invoice with charges regulated by the City of Portland. The City puts a cap on what they can charge you for, and on how much that charge can be.

However, if the lot you are parked in holds fewer than ten spaces, you are screwed. That’s when they can hit you with the unregulated charges. And, understand that ten is a completely arbitrary number.

Under the unregulated scheme, they can charge you for mileage even though you have no control over where they take your vehicle. Regulated tows cannot charge you for mileage.

Unregulated, they can also charge you for the fuel that they say they burned towing your vehicle. They are free to decide how much that fuel was worth. That charge is not permitted on City-regulated invoices.

Unregulated, they can charge you for the use of the dollies or other equipment that they say were used in towing your vehicle. This practice is forbidden by City regulations.

Unregulated, they charge you ten bucks for the digital photograph they took of your vehicle. That is ten dollars of pure profit, and the practice is not allowed on city-regulated tows.

Unregulated, they charge you about 60% more per day in storage fees. Retriever Towing, for instance, was charging daily storage of $ 20.00 on the regulated invoice and on the same day charging $ 33.00 for unregulated.

The difference? The size of the parking lot, whether it holds greater or fewer than ten vehicles.

The fact that the tow truck drivers are unpaid unless they hook somebody encourages them to be more aggressive than they need to be, from the public point of view.

The tow truck companies used to pay their drivers some sort of guarantee or minimum wage, but the owners decided that their drivers weren’t aggressive enough in their vehicle harvesting operations and now they pay them nothing.

The drivers are paid on a commission basis.

Are you starting to sense that this issue applies to you? Then join in and end the practice of predatory towing. Here’s how to start:

The City of Portland contracts for towing services with private companies. The Portland Police Bureau, for instance, orders thousands of vehicles towed each year, and that contract is worth millions of public dollars.

Due to loopholes in existing State and Federal law, the tow companies are immune from regulation for properties with fewer than ten parking slots.

The tow companies cannot be forced to change these predatory practices without changes in law, but the City of Portland could require all contractors performing business with the City to conform 100% of their towing activities conducted within the City of Portland according to the regulations already established by the City.

This contracting requirement should take effect at the earliest practical date, as early as tomorrow would be fine.

You can help make this happen by contacting Portland’s Mayor, City Council and Chief of Police, and requesting that this change occur.

Also, contact your State legislators, US Senators Wyden and Smith, and Oregon’s congressional delegation. It is time to close the loopholes at both Federal and State level.

No public entity should do business with companies that take public money with one hand and unfairly treat members of the public with the other.

This is a call to action.

Sean Cruz

More on this later

1 comment:

The Driver said...

You should also contact the chamber of commerce, the better business bureau and all the news agencies that you can think of. The one thing I would ask is please don't call these guys towers. They are scumbag extortionists. Towers are the guys that go out in any weather at any time and pick-up stranded people and take to a safe haven for a fair price. Professional towers have their rates posted in the truck or have a rate sheet in the truck for everyone to see on every tow.