We are not done with Towing Ordinance

Despite the recent NC Supreme Court ruling on the Town’s towing ordinance, there is much work left to be done on making sure the Town’s citizens are protected from predatory towing and unfair charges and towing policies.  See the N&O article for some background: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/06/12/3930570/nc-supreme-court-strikes-down.html

One of the key provisions to the ruling is that now towing companies must at least accept credit cards as a form of payment.  Prior to this, they demanded cash.   Who knows what books they kept for the IRS?  Who knows how many times they raised the price instantly and on the spot for angry people who discovered their cars were hooked up and being carted off out of town limits in the middle of the night, without any control over the matter?    I heard stories of people saying they were obviously mad and tow truck operators would keep raising the price for retrieving their cars with every heated statement they heard the “customer” make about the matter……hundreds of dollars later!   “If you complain one more time, you owe another $100..”   And yes, it did happen according to citizen statements.

The fee that a tow truck operator would have to pay for a credit card transaction should not be unreasonable or excessive.   I understand when I go to some gas stations that I must purchase a ~$5 minimum before they use a credit card (or whatever amount), because the business owner must pay a small fee.   But that charge to the consumer must be reasonable and frankly, only the amount that the business owner would find reasonable to recoup their fee.    I fear that this fee is not set and that some business could take advantage and charge whatever they wanted for someone to use a credit card, if they were in fact forced to provide this service.    In fact, a towing company representative stated in the N&O article that “”We’re happy to use the credit cards if we can break even doing it.”   Give me a break!!   Tell that to the myriad of gas stations requiring a nominal purchase for the ability to use a card…$5 minimums for instance.   Can’t break even???? on a several hundred dollar expense??   That is total BS and suggests future abuses of this scenario.

I could go on about other issues here, but I sent the following email to the “mayor and council” email address suggesting changes to the current towing ordinance in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling.  Hopefully council will take up this matter and maybe even my suggestions.    It was weird sending a generic email to “mayor and council” given the fact I was a council member for 8 years.   But, that’s how it goes!  I do know that I always read all of those emails and weighed people’s concerns seriously in them, and I am hoping the current council does the same way with mine.

Mayor and Council:
     I am assuming that the Town will be revising its towing ordinance now that the decision has come down from the NC Supreme Court.

1.   Make sure there is language that states specifically that towing companies can’t charge more than the cost for them to run the credit card.   In other words, if it costs a business owner 5% to have their customer use a credit card, that particular cost and no more could be passed on to the customer.    This is not regulating towing fees and has nothing to do with impacting the towing companies’  “livelihood.”

2.   Revise the ordinance to state that towing companies can’t charge people differently for the same service (this would prevent an angry tow company employee instantly raising the price because the person getting towed got mad and was rude).     This isn’t “price fixing” or having anything to do with how much they charge.

3.   Make sure the ordinance states that towing companies must charge what is “reasonable” for any service.   Reasonable needs to be emphasized and suggests the fees they charge are in line with costs + a little profit and what other towing companies in the area charge (or in the state).




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