Consumer Protection Act
Consumer's affairs departments of every jurisdiction are overflowing with complaints regarding tow truck operators, collision repair shops, and vehicle storage facilities. In Ontario, the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 outlines your rights as a customer. As of January 1st, 2017, the Consumer Protection Act changed to include new requirements for tow truck operators and vehicle storage providers to protect Ontario drivers.
The CAA released the Towing Bill of Rights on August 22nd, 2018, to make the consumer more aware of the update to the Consumer Protection Act passed on January 1st, 2017. SIS agrees with CAA's Towing Bill of Rights, but we feel that CAA's bill is more applicable for towing in general and does not sufficiently cover towing from an accident scene.
We want to expand on this and give more specific instructions that should be followed at an accident scene when the Insured's vehicle is damaged and requires towing. This is when they are most vulnerable to fraud exposure.
SIS Accident Scene Towing Bill of Rights
Getting towed from an accident scene is vastly different than getting towed from the roadside due to a breakdown. At an accident scene, the insured may be upset, distraught and incredibly stressed and possibly injured. In this type of situation, it can be quite easy for the insured to forget what to do to protect their rights and their vehicle.
Some tow operators take advantage of this situation by coercing the Insured to take the vehicle to the tow operators impound or to a repair shop that is giving them an incentive for bringing vehicles to them.
Here are our suggestions for the insured to protect their rights and vehicle at an accident scene:
- ASSESS THE SITUATION
If the vehicle can be driven, the vehicle should be moved safely off to the side of the road. Turn off the vehicle and put the hazard lights on. Call the Police if anyone involved is injured, if any of the other driver(s) appear to be impaired, if there is damage to city property, or if the combined damage of all involved vehicles exceeds $2000.
- CALL YOUR INSURER! You should contact your insurance broker or insurance company from the accident scene as soon as you have completed the assessment in step 1 above. Ask how your insurance company handles towing and how much of the costs they will cover. The broker/insurer may also offer some additional guidance.
- DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING!
Do not sign anything until the tow truck driver has agreed to take your vehicle where you designate. A Permission to Tow form must be signed by the insured or by someone acting on their behalf. We would suggest getting the destination agreed to in writing and signed by the tow operator before they hook up to your vehicle. You should be shown a towing and storage rate sheet listing towing fees, daily storage fees (if any), and all other miscellaneous charges. Make sure the company name on the tow truck matches the documentation and never agree to a demand for cash payment to release your vehicle.
- NO SOLICITATION ALLOWED!
Do not feel obligated to accept the first tow truck that shows up at the scene. Ontario and most municipalities have regulations preventing tow operators from soliciting business at accident scenes. If you suspect fraud or if the tow truck driver refuses to leave, call the police.
- WHERE SHOULD YOU TAKE YOUR VEHICLE? Having the choice of where to take your vehicle is the main flaw in the Consumer Protection Act. Very few people will know where they should have their vehicle taken. Insured's should be encouraged to call their Insurance Company or their Broker to determine where to have their vehicle taken from an accident scene. Alternatively,once the vehicle arrives at the Collision Reporting Centre (CRC) the vehicle should be towed from there to either an SIS Impound (if vehicle is a Total Loss) or an Insurer preferred repair shop if the vehicle can be repaired cost effectively.
- Make Note of the Tow Operator
They should also get the tow operators' CVOR license, his plate number, tow company name and the driver's name. If possible, the Insured should take pictures of their vehicle and the accident scene, showing the positioning of the vehicles.
- PAY BY CREDIT CARD!
Do not agree to pay by cash. And do not pay until you receive an itemized invoice and the Tow Oprerator agrees to take your vehicle to where you designatd. Take pictures of your vehicle once its been connected to the tow truck. The photos would show the Insurer if the tow operator used dollies or any other equipment to move the vehicle and the current level of damage.
- DO NOT ADMIT FAULT
It is up to the police and insurance company to determine the fault of the accident.
Other Things to Consider
What if the Insured's vehicle is blocking the roadway, and the tow truck driver is trying to coerce the insured into letting him tow the vehicle? Or what if the Police request the vehicle be removed immediately?
We have spoken with several police officers about this.
Their common response:
- If the tow truck operator has agreed to take your vehicle where you requested, you should allow him to do so. If, after consenting, he does not take the vehicle where the insured requested, the insured could charge him with theft. That is why it is best to get the destination agreement in writing.
- If the tow operator refuses to take your vehicle where you designate, then ask him just to hook up and tow your vehicle to a safe location away from the accident scene and release it. This short tow will cost $200 - $250, but it will be worth it considering what it could cost if towed to a repair shop or storage facility that may be paying him a kickback for bringing them the vehicle.
- You should consider keeping a list of repair firms and tow operators that your insurance company recommends in your glove box.
While the government of Ontario has taken steps to come up with solutions, these solutions have been difficult to implement and enforce. Secured Impound Solutions' accident management process will improve this situation.
Contact SIS for an online or in house presentation that will show in detail how we can impact the Automobile Insurance Industry.
- Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, 2014, S.O. 2014, c.9 - Bill 15
- CAA Towing Bill of Rights
- Ontario Increasing Transparency for Drivers Using Towing and Vehicle Storage Services
- Getting towed to a storage lot
- Project Platinum