Thursday, December 16, 2010
Towing Companies Targeting Drivers
Watching as his car was nearly towed from a lot in New Jersey only one minute after he parked, prompted Fox 5 News reporter John Huddy to investigate the towing company.
What he discovered were some shady business practices and predatory behavior.
The experience was not limited to Huddy. As Fox 5 News witnessed at the Metro Plaza lot in Jersey City, a man sitting inside a car watched people park their vehicles and then appeared to make a call on his cell phone or radio. Within minutes a tow truck pulled into the lot.
The 'spotter' could be seen video recording the tow truck moving a vehicle out of the lot.
When he approached the 'spotter' to ask why he was having the vehicle towed, the man replied ' no comment.'
Huddy witnessed as two tow companies- Danny's Towing and EZ Towing- removed cars and trucks from the lot even when it was wide open.
A man who said he had parked in the lot and was headed to the affiliated BJs store told Fox 5 News his car was towed in a matter of minutes.
"$152.10 just for towing my car? Cash?" said Jean Marie Alezandre. The man said he was paying a bill at a different location but was headed back to BJs to do some shopping as he regularly does when his vehicle was towed.
FOX 5 News also spoke with a man who said his car was towed after going into one of the Metro Plaza stores, and then briefly going to a neighboring business.
By law, private property owners are allowed to have vehicles towed. But 'predatory towing' is illegal in the Garden State.
Tow companies engaging in 'predatory behavior' make thousands of dollars from holding the car until the owner pays up.
According to the New Jersey Predatory Towing Prevention Act:
•it is illegal to charge an unreasonable towing fee
•the towing company must allow people to pay by credit card
•signs must be 36 inches wide by 36 inches tall and clearly marked
•it is illegal to tow a vehicle 'without having been specifically requested to tow such vehicle by the owner of the property
The company G&S Investors owns the Metro Plaza lot in Jersey City. A representative for the company wrote Fox 5 News in an email that no car is towed unless the driver leaves the lot... and that a towing service is necessary to "protect the safety and convenience of the customers of the Metro Plaza merchants."
The questionable towing procedures are not limited to Jersey City.
An undercover investigation was launched by the Union Township Police following numerous complaints from business owners of the P.P.M. Towing company, according to Sgt. Robert Christie.
The NJ Division of Consumer Affairs confirmed there are complaints against PPM Towing, Danny's Towing and EZ Towing.
A representative for Danny's Towing and the owner of EZ Towing told Fox 5 News that they were just doing their jobs.
PPM Towing did not return calls to Fox 5 News.
Store representatives for several businesses at Metro Plaza told Fox 5 News they had received numerous complaints from shoppers about improper towing.
Anyone who feels they may have been a victim of 'predatory towing' should contact local police and the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs.