MASSPIRG calls for driver towing protections

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BOSTON — MASSPIRG called on Wednesday for stronger protections for drivers who get their cars towed as the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) considers increases to maximum towing charges. 

“The DPU should not consider any increases in towing fees unless and until they consider adopting long overdue consumer protections,” said Deirdre Cummings, MASSPIRG’s legislative director, in testimony submitted to the DPU today.

Every year, millions of Americans have their cars towed without their consent from a private property or public street. Too often, drivers are left stranded and confused, with no reason given for the tows or guidance on what steps they should take next. While getting towed can be a justified consequence of parking in the wrong place or for too long, drivers deserve the decency of basic consumer protections such as access to their wallets, medicine and possessions, or the ability to pay with debit/credit card.

“Under the best circumstances, getting towed is an ordeal, even when  justified,” said Cummings. “For many drivers, however, the situation is compounded because the current regulations lack important consumer protections.”

The consumer protections recommended by MASSPIRG in the testimony include: 

  • Requiring motor vehicle storage facilities to allow the owner of a car to remove any possessions from the car if the individual is unable to pay the tow and storage fee in full.
  • Preventing car storage facilities from charging anything other than the towing and storage charge.
  • Requiring both the car storage facility and tow trucks to have credit card readers to accept debit and credit cards in addition to cash.
  • Requiring towing companies and storage facilities to provide itemized receipts of charges.
  • Requiring towing companies to take a picture of the vehicle parking/standing in a private right of way before towing. 
  • Prohibiting towing companies from paying kickbacks to property owners, parking employees or law enforcement in exchange for referring or recommending tows.

MASSPIRG has released two reports reviewing best practices of consumer protections in the towing industry, Getting Off the Hook of a Predatory Tow (2021) and Getting Off the Hook of a Predatory Tow Part II (2023). U.S. PIRG Education Fund updated its guide 7 Steps To Take If Your Car Is Getting Towed in 2023.

Towing complaints can be made with:

Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Transportation Oversight Division,

Attorney General: Consumer Complaints,