New Bill Would Implement Reforms to Protect Consumers
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Dec. 6, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Predatory towing practices in Florida have long been a source of frustration and anger for residents and visitors alike. The state has gained notoriety for towing companies that seem to prey on unsuspecting vehicle owners, often engaging in questionable tactics to maximize their profits. This issue has prompted numerous complaints, legal battles, and calls for reform to protect consumers from the clutches of unscrupulous towing operators. The National Insurance Crime Bureau, the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime, is helping lead the way to combat these predatory towing practices in the Sunshine State and recently took part in a transportation committee hearing in the Florida House of Representatives focused on this issue.
“Once a vehicle is towed, the financial burden on the owner can be substantial,” said Eric De Campos, Director of Strategy, Policy and Government Affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau. “Towing fees, storage fees, and administrative charges quickly accumulate, creating a financial strain on individuals who have had their vehicle towed without their consent. These fees are often disproportionately high and may not accurately reflect the cost of the towing service. Fee transparency is a critical way to address this issue. Without a fee schedule in place and accessible to consumers, unscrupulous towers can charge tens of thousands of dollars for routine tows or simply for sweeping glass and vehicle fluid from the ground and billing for a hazmat cleanup.”
The lack of clear rate sheets and conspicuous signage is another common complaint. Florida law requires property owners to display signs that provide clear information about parking restrictions and the potential for towing. However, some towing companies have been accused of either placing signs in inconspicuous locations or not providing adequate information to vehicle owners about the consequences of parking in a particular area. This lack of transparency can result in individuals unwittingly parking in areas where towing is enforced, only to return and find their vehicle gone.
“In addition, consumers need to know upfront what to expect in terms of towing and storage fees,” De Campos said. “That is why it is important to require towers to provide their rate sheets to consumers upon request and post signage at their places of business that identify all applicable fees. This is a practice done in other states like Kentucky and could be implemented in Florida as a consumer protection against surprise or inflated fees.”
In response to these concerns, there are efforts underway to regulate the towing industry in Florida more effectively. Advocates for consumer rights and fair business practices have called for stricter oversight, increased transparency, and clearer regulations regarding towing practices. Florida State Representative Melony M. Bell (R- Fort Meade) is currently sponsoring legislation (HB 179) that would address several of these issues. “There is a real need for comprehensive reform to protect consumers from unfair and exploitative practices. Until meaningful reform is enacted, individuals in Florida will remain vulnerable to the pitfalls of predatory towing, with the potential for financial hardship and emotional distress looming over every parking decision,” said Rep. Bell.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL INSURANCE CRIME BUREAU: Headquartered in Des Plaines, Ill., the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) is the nation’s leading not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to combatting and preventing insurance crime through Intelligence, Analytics, and Operations; Education and Crime Prevention; and Strategy, Policy, and Advocacy. NICB membership includes more than 1,200 property-casualty insurance companies, vehicle rental companies, auto auctions, vehicle finance companies and self-insured organizations. NICB member companies wrote over $582 billion in insurance premiums in 2021, or more than 82% of the nation’s property-casualty insurance. That includes more than 96% of the nation’s personal auto insurance. To learn more, visit www.nicb.org
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SOURCE National Insurance Crime Bureau