Drivers in Arizona have long complained about towing practices in the state. Among the complaints are that towing companies won’t accept cash, they charge ridiculous fees, they aren’t open at reasonable hours, they make it extremely difficult for insurance adjusters to do their jobs and examine cars after accidents, and they refuse to release cars. Basically, consumers hold that they aren’t being treated fairly and that towing businesses engage in shady business practices.
So, it’s not a terrible surprise that lawmakers in the state decided to do something about it.
Governor Doug Ducey recently signed a new Arizona towing law to hold tow truck operations accountable if they don’t treat car owners fairly and act in good faith. Those towing operations who violate the new law engaging in shady business practices will face hefty consequences.
What exactly does the new law mean? We’ve got the highlights below.
Towing companies must:
1. Accept debit cards and credit cards.
Previously, towing companies might have required cash payments. Now they must take debit and credit cards as well as checks issued by the car owner’s insurance company.
2. Release the vehicle.
Although Arizona law already required towing businesses to release vehicles even if the owner hadn’t paid yet, that law was not always practiced. Now, if the towing company tows a car following an accident they have to give the owner back their car on the day that either the driver or insurance company proves ownership and submits the appropriate form.
3. Provide a list of fees before billing.
When a customer asks for a bill listing all charges before noon, the bill must be produced and given to them before the end of the day. Under the Arizona towing law, it is not legal for the tow truck or wrecker company to charge the listed fees until they issue a receipt (if they don’t give the customer a bill.)
4. Allow the car owner to access their vehicle.
The Arizona towing law stipulates that towers cannot demand payment if the owner of the vehicle wants to inspect the car or pick up any personal belongings during business hours. This includes allowing the owner’s insurance company and those that the owner specifies in writing to access the vehicle. However, the tower may require the driver of the insurance company to sign a waiver before taking personal belongings.
5. Track storage days properly.
Under the Arizona towing law, one storage day means midnight of one day to midnight of the next.
6. Be open during reasonable hours.
Towing businesses have to be open from 9am-5pm, Monday through Friday (not including holidays), or they have to have appointment-based availability. They can list the number of an on-call employee during these hours if they appear to be closed. Towing companies cannot charge fees for the time they are not accessible during these hours.
7. Take vehicles that were involved in accidents to the nearest possible storage lot.
Towing companies cannot take a car to a lot that is deliberately out of the way. They must transport the car to the closest storage lot available to them. Exceptions are if the lot is full, the police instruct them otherwise, or the driver asks them to take the car to a different lot.
8. Take responsibility for their drivers, employees, and contractors.
Towing companies can’t write off a shady action by saying that it’s the employee’s fault. They’re responsible for their drivers and their employees.
9. Follow the rules of the city where the accident happened.
Certain cities have set guidelines for what a towing company can charge. Towers must respect and follow these laws – they cannot charge more than the city allows or more than is allowed by their contract.
10. Understand the consequences of breaking the law.
The Attorney General of Arizona is authorized to enforce the law. Improperly refusing to release a car two times in a three-year time frame can lead to a Class 3 misdemeanor.
So, that’s the scoop on Arizona’s new law about towing practices. As a towing operation, you work in a service industry. Acting in good faith and with proper business practices is really in everyone’s best interest. The customer gets a fair price and you get a happy customer. Keeping your towing customers happy is definitely beneficial to your business – they can generate business for you through referrals and recommending you to others. And don’t forget why online reviews are important for any small business. People make decisions based on reviews and recommendations from friends and family. In summary, operating with good business practices is good for business.
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