By Joe Wehrle, President and CEO, National Insurance Crime Bureau
When you get into an accident, the last thing you want to think about is paying thousands of dollars to get your vehicle back from a towing company. For many, especially in the Chicagoland area, this is a reality. Here at the NICB, we have seen bills close to $3,000 or even more for consumers to get their vehicles back. That doesn't include the hidden daily storage fees that some towing companies charge.
There has been an uptick in towing-reform legislation by states and municipalities, such as Arizona and California.
However, we need to see more. Otherwise, these fraudulent towing companies will continue to take advantage of consumers. Here at the NICB, our government affairs team is working in selected states and cities to build coalitions to combat this type of scam. Recently, the NICB government affairs team held a meeting with member companies, law enforcement, and other key stakeholders to look closer at the Illinois law.
It's a significant problem in the city and costing the industry and policyholders.
Last summer, the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) adopted model towing legislation that included several consumer protections, which the NICB strongly supports. The model towing bill was the culmination of a two-year effort among insurance companies and their trade groups, NICB, state lawmakers, and towing interests.
This model law would restrict dishonest towers who listen to police scanners and attempt to swoop onto an accident scene without being called. In many cases, motorists assume law enforcement called the tower and consent to the tow without the benefit of consulting a tow rotation list or their insurer.
Similar to Chicago, Philadelphia had a major rogue tow problem until 2017 when the city established a tow rotation program where local police work off a list of towers who must adhere to a strict set of standards and guidelines to participate in the program. Towing rates are regulated and most importantly, consumers have peace of mind. Through 2 years, the program has seen a drop in towing related abuses.
Elected officials or staff interested in strengthening their consumer protections related to accident scene tows should contact NICB's government affairs department at GovernmentAffairs@nicb.org or 800-447-6282.