Butkovitz Uncovers Predatory Tow Truck Operators

Audit Date: November 10, 2009
Audit Categories
  • Investigation
Controller: Alan Butkovitz

Executive Summary

For Immediate Release:
November 10, 2009

Contact: Harvey Rice

Butkovitz Uncovers Predatory Tow Truck Operators
Investigation uncovers illegal towing fees coupled with cash only payments



PHILADELPHIA – In releasing an investigative report today entitled, “Assessment of Towing Operations,” City Controller Alan Butkovitz attacked unscrupulous tow truck operators for taking advantage of consumers by over-charging them for towing, as well as demanding cash-only payments.

“Countless Philadelphians, as well as numerous visitors to our city, fall victim to unscrupulous towing companies that prey on consumers by posting illegal signs and charging illegal fees,” said Butkovitz, at a press conference today.

According to Butkovitz, “all eight tow truck operators we investigated posted signs that violated city law by either posting excessive fees for towing or requiring cash-only payments.”

The companies included in the review accounted for 84 percent of all tows conducted during the three month period of the investigation.

“Numerous towing companies were openly violating the law by charging excessive towing fees and charging additional fees for ‘supposedly’ extra labor,” said Butkovitz. “City codes clearly state that no towing company may charge more than $150 a vehicle and no other charges, amounts or fees in connection with the towing may be applied.”

In clear violation of city ordinances, Manton Towing and Transport displayed signs listing the following fees: $175 for car, $185 for SUV and $200 for business vehicles. Manton also applied a $50 minimum charge for extra labor and use of equipment and required cash only payments.

“We also found tow companies who had their operating licenses revoked by L&I, operating again under a new and different business name, thus circumventing the L&I suspension,” said Butkovitz. “While there is an abundance of legislation regulating towing operations, there is a lack of effective enforcement by L&I.”

As a result of the Controller’s report, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey recommended that legislation be drafted by City Council requiring the issuance of a ticket by a governmental law enforcement agent prior to a vehicle being towed from a private lot. This would allow vehicle owners a right to appeal the violation and towing charges.

“Improved enforcement by L&I coupled with more involvement by police will help deter the type of predatory towing and price gouging that goes on in Philadelphia,” said Butkovitz.