The House approved a measure Wednesday that aims to curb predatory towing practices by giving state and local governments authority to regulate the towing industry.
The proposal passed as an amendment to the House transportation bill, which provides federal funding for state and local projects and is expected to pass this week. Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD.), who pushed the measure, had introduced a standalone bill earlier this year, saying local governments should have the power to pass their own regulations of the towing industry.
“Predatory towing practices harm consumers and can lead to real financial pain,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “Local communities should be able to address consumer complaints and crack down on companies that engage in abusive towing practices, and this amendment will give them back that authority.”
Officials say local consumer agencies have seen a rising number of complaints about cars being towed within minutes of drivers leaving their vehicles and the exorbitant fees drivers are being required to pay for their return. Officials say some companies are charging “unrealistically high” fees.
In Northern Virginia, tows usually cost $135 and in Montgomery County they average $168, according to reports.
Congress 20 years ago limited state and local regulation of the industry, but that right was later restored by some court cases. Officials, however, say conflicting court rulings have hindered state and local governments from fully protecting consumers.
Still, some local communities have taken action.
In July, the Montgomery County Council approved legislation aimed at halting predatory towing of vehicles from shopping centers, apartment complexes and other private property. The new law bans tow companies from deploying employees to monitor lots. It also allows the county executive to set flat rates for the towing and storing of vehicles, and it requires tow companies to staff impound lots around the clock.