The Colorado House Transportation, Housing and Local Government Committee has recommended legislation for passage that would mitigate predatory towing, improve industry transparency, and ramp up consumer protections.
HB24-1051, which passed out of the committee by a vote of 7-3 last week, would end the practice of tow truck drivers patrolling, monitoring, or policing properties to enforce parking restrictions on behalf of property owners, according to a Colorado House Democrats news release.
The proposed legislation requires the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to collect additional information from drivers “necessary for effective oversight and meaningful reporting” that would add to reports given to legislative committees regarding towing issues and financial information including:
- Any information needed to prepare the report;
- Audited financial statements (aggregated, anonymized, and available to the public); and
- Any other information required by the commission.
The PUC would also address conflicts of interest for members of the Towing Task Force under the bill. The task force is “responsible for making comprehensive recommendations to the PUC about maximum towing rates for nonconsensual tows and advising the PUC concerning investigations of overcharges made by towing carriers,” according to the PUC’s website.
During the Feb. 6 hearing on the bill, Rep. Andrew Boesenecker (D-Fort Collins), a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “In Colorado, investors have combined parking lot management, towing and vehicle removal, auction houses, and car dealerships into a single integrated entity. This makes them — unfortunately — judge, jury, and executioner with the power to take someone’s car and sell it at their discretion. This practice is not only costly and predatory, [but] it also does not reflect best practices of the towing industry overall.”
He added that in December, Attorney General Phil Weiser reached a $1 million settlement with Wyatts Towing after a monthslong investigation.
It was discovered that the company towed thousands of vehicles since 2019 without a valid permit or proper authorization, charged unlawful fees, illegally kept consumer funds, and engaged in deceptive and unfair business practices to discourage Coloradans from exercising their rights under the state’s towing laws, according to a DA’s Office news release.
“The office of the Attorney General has done their job and now it’s time for the legislature to do ours to take decisive action and ensure that predatory towing becomes an issue of the past for consumers in our state, Boesenecker said.
Apartment and subdivision owners testified in opposition to the bill, claiming they’re looking out for the best interest of their residents when vehicles are towed, such as from a fire lane. At least one owner said they have instructed the tow company they work with to not drive around the lots looking for cars to tow.
Property owners would pay for non-consensual tows in certain circumstances rather than the vehicle owners, according to the bill. Unauthorized vehicles would still be towed at the expense of the vehicle owner.
Companies would also be required to return a wrongfully towed vehicle to the original location within 48 hours at no charge to the vehicle owner, and any storage fees incurred for the first 30 days would be paid for by certain property owners, though the definition of who that would apply to isn’t given in the bill.
“Towing companies have a massive advantage over everyday Coloradans, and we need to do more to level the playing field,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Tisha Mauro (D-Pueblo), in the Colorado House Democrats release. “Our legislation works to dismantle financial incentives for predatory towing practices, specifically patrolling parking lots and drastically improves consumer protections… This legislation also institutes new towing transparency and oversight measures so we can prioritize consumers.”
If passed, the bill would require parking lot sign improvements to explain towing regulations clearly in English and Spanish.
The bill would place requirements on tow truck driver permits, including fingerprinting for criminal history record checks. If a criminal history is discovered that the PUC determines is inappropriate for the job, a permit will not be issued.
Current law allows the commission to deny or refuse to renew a tow truck operator permit if:
- They were convicted within the last five years of a felony or a towing-related offense;
- Have failed to satisfy a civil penalty imposed by the commission; or
- The commission determines that it’s not in the public interest for the towing carrier to hold a permit, such as previously violating towing laws in the state.
“Imagine waking up to find, through no fault of your own, that your car has been towed — this is an expensive and devastating reality for thousands of Coloradans across our state,” said Boesenecker, in the Colorado House Democrats release. “While the Towing Bill of Rights laid a strong foundation to protect vehicle owners, we’re doing more to improve transparency within the towing industry and prohibiting predatory towing companies from patrolling parking lots to look for vehicles to profit on. This important legislation puts consumers first by requiring property owners to authorize residential non-consensual tows and gives the Public Utilities Commission new tools to hold bad actors accountable.”
Featured image: House of Representatives chambers inside the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver. (Credit: milehightraveler/iStock)