Many towing companies that impound illegally parked cars would be forced to accept lower fees for their services under new rates proposed by Montgomery County.

The proposed fees, announced last week and discussed at a public hearing Tuesday, represent the county's latest effort to enforce a towing law that was passed in 1988 but has yet to be applied because of court challenges.

Last summer, the county got the go-ahead to set maximum towing fees when the state's highest court ruled against 10 towing firms seeking to overturn the law. A group of towing companies petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court last week to hear the case.

Proposed by the county Office of Consumer Affairs and subject to approval by the County Council, the rates would allow a towing firm to charge up to $40, plus $2.50 per mile, to tow an illegally parked car. The company could charge an additional $4 for the first 12 hours it holds a car and $8 for each 12-hour period after that.

Evan Johnson, of the Consumer Affairs Office, said his agency researched towing charges across the county and decided on rates that would be "substantially below" what many towing firms charge.

County officials have said towing companies specializing in so-called "trespass towing" often charge a $50 to $100 fee and up to $25 per day for storage of a vehicle.

Former County Council member Rose Crenca sponsored the bill, saying that many car owners were frustrated that once able to locate their towed cars, they could pay only cash to retrieve them.

At Tuesday's hearing, Glenn Cade, owner of G&G Towing in Silver Spring, said the proposed rates will not cover the full cost of a tow, which includes labor and insurance costs. "Isn't it the fault of the violator, and shouldn't she or he pay?" he asked.

According to the law, towing companies must now allow payment by MasterCard or Visa, or accept personal checks with "reasonable identification.".