The Montgomery County Council agreed to legislation yesterday designed to protect county motorists against unscrupulous tow truck operators.
The legislation, which the council is expected to enact Sept. 11, would require tow truck operators to post their rates with the county, inform customers of rates in advance of towing and carry insurance protecting towed vehicles. Registration of operators would also be required.
Council President Neal Potter said the legislation is needed because "we don't have a means of getting hold of these people. Some of them are fly-by-nighters." The registration requirement will enable the county to make the operators respond to complaints or stop doing business, Potter said.
"Our normal consumer complaint resolution is 75 to 80 percent. In towing complaints, it's 20 percent because of our inability to contact [the operators] and their refusal to respond," said George Rose, chief of the auto unit of the County Office of Consumer Affairs.
"Towing estimates will be more accurate and damage claims will be taken care of more quickly" after the bill takes effect, he said.
Rose described some typical recent problems that the legislation should prevent. An uninsured tower caused $200 damage to a customer's car and went out of business without paying for it. Another towed a customer's car into another car and refused to pay for repairs. Another charged $50 for towing a car two miles.
Jerry Wise, secretary-treasurer of the Independent Towers Association, said the measure "should be fair to the tower and consumer if administered properly."