Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Tow Services Step on Toes ; Complaints of Unfair Wrecker Charges May Lead to Area Rule Changes

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Tow Services Step on Toes ; Complaints of Unfair Wrecker Charges May Lead to Area Rule Changes

Article excerpt

Ensuring wrecker companies charge fair prices to owners of disabled vehicles they tow is the goal of a measure the Shawnee County Commission will consider Monday.

The proposed home rule resolution would implement new rules to cover situations in which motorists say they have no preference about which company tows their disabled vehicle.

The current process calls for the Shawnee County Emergency Communications Center to call whoever has the next turn among a rotation of 14 towing companies on a list the county keeps, said sheriff's Capt. Lance Royer, who oversees that center. The companies then deal directly with the vehicle's owner to settle the bills.

But Royer said the sheriff's office is increasingly hearing complaints about towing companies charging unreasonable rates.

One company billed a motorist $705 after her vehicle was involved in a traffic accident, Sheriff Herman Jones told commissioners in a recent memorandum.

"Upon inquiry she was advised the car was taken to the wrecker lot where it incurred a weekend lot storage fee of $160," Jones wrote. "The wrecker company charged an additional $125 to then tow the car to Noller Ford. The charge from another company who would have taken the car directly to Noller would have been $250."

Jones' memo didn't identify the companies that have been the subject of the complaints.

Other owners whose cars were towed have been unable to contact the towing companies on weekends, forcing them to pay storage fees and leaving them unable to get their vehicle back until Monday, Jones' memo said.

It also said companies on the county's list of companies to call during nonpreference situations have at times disregarded that list, going to crash scenes and towing away vehicles that another company should have been able to tow away.

The sheriff's office currently can't do much about such situations -- but it will be able to if commissioners approve the proposed home rule resolution they will consider Monday, Royer said. …

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