City Council plans to take up towing ordinance on Tuesday

After years of complaints, Asheville City Council is poised to put teeth in a towing ordinance.

Council on Tuesday will consider adopting a local law regulating “non-consensual towing.” Elected officials have struggled over the years to find an effective way to regulate local towing companies that many believe take advantage of illegal parkers by charging charging exorbitant fees and making it difficult to pay.

The new ordinance:

• Caps the fee for a completed tow at $100
• Requires a tow service to release the vehicle on the spot if it hasn’t completed the tow and the vehicle operator pays up.
• Requires towers to accept credit and debit cards for the payment of fees.
• Requires a tow service to move vehicles to a lot with a 10-mile radius of downtown Asheville or Biltmore Village.
• Requires towers to notify police that a vehicle has been towed within 30 minutes of the vehicle’s removal.
• Requires towers to have a person on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, who can acknowledge requests to retrieve a vehicle within 15 minutes and release a vehicle within 45 minutes.
• Makes it a violation of the law for a vehicle operator to cancel payment of a towing fee made by credit or debit card.
• Makes it illegal for anyone to interfere with any tow service that is carrying out a tow.

Acts of what some call “predatory towing” received renewed attention last year, when a report to City Council showed it was having a negative impact on local tourism. In December, the Asheville Police Department conducted a sting operation and arrested two employees of All-Safe Towing who hitched up and towed a car the police had legally parked in a Lexington Avenue parking lot.

On Dec. 10, Mountain Xpress reported that Asheville City Council was preparing to change local ordinances in coming months with the goal of curbing predatory towing.

Click here to go to the Xpress Files and read the proposed towing ordinance.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor

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13 thoughts on “City Council plans to take up towing ordinance on Tuesday

  1. Kriss

    “Makes it a violation of the law for a vehicle operator to cancel payment of a towing fee made by credit or debit card.”

    First, nobody can “cancel” a credit card charge. That wording really makes no sense. You can “dispute” a credit card charge, in which case the credit card company will temporarily remove it while it makes an investigation. If it turns out to be a mistake or unjustly charged, then the credit card company will remove it and charge back the business that originally put it there. And since this is a right under *federal law*, there is NO WAY such an ordinance could stand up in court.

    Sounds like they are pretty much caving in to the towing company demands, and this part of the ordinance would amount to nothing more than intimidation – causing people to think they no longer have the right to dispute phony or unjust towing charges.

    This is really an outrage.

  2. WestAVLMama

    Kriss makes a good point. I think it just goes to show the lack of thought put into it and the quick out to get our citizens to shut up.

  3. JOHN-C

    $100 Bucks for a tow? That’s an outrage!

    [Makes it illegal for anyone to interfere with any tow service that is carrying out a tow] Isn’t that already illegal??

  4. LOKEL

    I do not understand why the “tow” from a parking lot is so expensive compared to the charge when you call them to tow you from a break down … the parking tow fees are almost 2 times the cost.

    If the Council “takes up” the towing issue like it takes up everything else – there is no telling when or if it will ever be resolved.

    Let’s hire a team of consultants (from out of town) ya’ll!

    Maybe Bellamy could get her old friend Kwame (ex-mayor of Detroit), to come and advise us …

  5. Kriss

    This morning I sent the following email to the Asheville City Council and the City Attorney:

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    As an Asheville native and frequent visitor to Asheville, I believe some sort of regulatory ordinance to curtail predatory towing is a step in the right direction, however there is a problem with one part of the proposed ordinance. And that is in regard to the section that addresses the “cancellation” of a credit card charge.

    “Failure or refusal by a vehicle operator to pay any of the fees assessed pursuant to this section, including but not limited to cancellation of an authorization for payment by charge card or debit card, or stopping payment of a check, is a violation of this section.”

    This section is poorly worded and is, in my opinion, completely unenforceable. First, nobody can “cancel” a credit card charge. You can “dispute” a credit card charge, in which case the credit card company will temporarily remove it while it makes an investigation. If, after the investigation, it turns out to be a mistake or unjustly charged, then the credit card company will remove it and charge back the business that originally put it there. And since this is a right under The Fair Credit Billing Act, a *federal* law, no local ordinance can take away those consumer rights granted under federal law, nor punish anyone for exercising those rights.

    It seems pretty obvious that including such a section in your ordinance is based on political pressure from towing companies and would amount to nothing less than intimidation of those unlucky enough to have become involved in a towing situation, that is, causing people to *think* they no longer have the right to dispute unfair or illegal towing charges.

    But they do have that right under federal law and will continue to have that right. I urge you to remove any reference to “cancellation” of credit card charges.

    Thanks very much for your kind attention to this matter.

    [My name and address]

  6. WestAVLMama

    Thanks Kriss. We just need a major wind of change to blow thru. Our council is slow to act on anything and further more we need a full time mayor position. While I am a democrat I think it is time to remove Bellamy from the game.

  7. jen

    Plain and simple..don’t park where you will be towed. Why is this such an issue? I pay when I have to, where I am told to. I have not ever been towed in Asheville. I think this mostly applies to those who ‘temporarily park’. They think that 10 minutes will not be noticed so they don’t pay or ignore the no parking signs. I think the property owners have a right to have vehicles towed if they are not following the posted signs.

  8. JOHN-C

    Jen… It’s not about people parking illegally

    This debate is about “Predatory Towing”

  9. cwaster

    Of course they have that right, Jen.
    However, The issue here is Predatory Towing. Towing you before your time is up (like in the APD sting), towing you from poorly or unmarked places, towing you from properties that have no right to have you towed from there (i.e. they don’t own it), ridiculously high towing and storage fees, difficulty in getting your vehicle back (so they can charge you more), making it hard to pay via anything other than cash (and of course they “don’t have change”) etc.

    The bottom line is, it’s a scam in my opinion that has gone on far too long. I’ve been in Asheville for 15 years and it’s been happening since I’ve been here. They need to be stopped.

  10. Kriss

    Jen, I agree with JOHN-C and cwaster. You seem to have the rather naive notion that if you just do the right thing, then everybody else will also do the right thing. Not so, unfortunately, in the real world. Especially where these predatory towing companies are involved.

    This extremely weak and poorly worded proposed ordinance seems more geared in favor of the towing companies than the citizens and visitors to Asheville who have been historically victimized by their predatory tactics.

    Anybody hear what happened on this at the Council meeting last night?

  11. John

    I watched the towing ordinance discussion on the city channel over the weekend. I sounded like the towing companies had written the entire thing. There was nothing in there that increased the penalty for predatory towing. Wasn’t that what got us here to start with? Predatory towing? They didn’t even address it in the draft that went to the council?! They decided to triple the existing punishment without even know what the old one was. I agree with them increasing the penalty, but it was very disappointing that they hadn’t even addressed it in the draft and that no one even knew what the old punishment was. The towing lobby almost won that one.

  12. hippiehater

    I agree with you Jen. Sounds like a bunch of cry babies and complainers. Its very simple. Dont park where you are not supposed to, or pay when its required. What the hell is “predatory towing” anyways? Thats simply an adjective that the pissed off people who have been towed have come up with to place their tree hugging angst on someone other than their own problems. Ive been towed twice. It sucked. It was my fault.

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