First step towards better consumer protection in the tow truck industry in WA

This announcement is for: 
ConsumerBusiness / companyMotor industry

Consumer Protection has launched a period of community and industry consultation with the view of determining whether the regulation of tow truck businesses and those working in the tow truck industry in WA is required.

This consultation is prompted by community concerns about the conduct of some tow truck operators and reports of unscrupulous tactics being used to gain business from consumers who, having just been involved in a car accident, are at their most vulnerable.

The consultation will consider the conduct of some operators in relation to alleged excessive towing and storage fees and allegations of intimidation, threats and violence.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection Lanie Chopping said there are some tow truck operators who take advantage of the fact that consumers find themselves in a stressful situation and may be suffering from shock, if not a serious injury.

“It is difficult for consumers in this unfortunate situation to make clear decisions about which tow truck operator to use, negotiate towing and storage rates and then decide which repairer they will use,” Ms Chopping said.

“So we believe there is a need for consideration of these issues including whether more specific protections for consumers are warranted.

“The industry is competitive but ethical operators sometimes find it difficult to compete with those using dubious tactics to ensure they are first to arrive at the scene of an accident and take possession of the vehicle.

“There is a widely-held belief that the industry needs to be “cleaned up” and any criminal elements involved in running tow truck businesses should be removed. An occupational licensing scheme where participants have to pass a ‘fit and proper’ test and disclose criminal histories may be the answer but we would welcome feedback on this proposal.

“There are costs involved in a licensing system so we need to consider the financial impact on operators, ensuring we maintain the commercial viability of the industry while, at the same time, protecting consumers.

“Other considerations for the review are setting a cap on towing and storage fees, banning the payment of spotters’ fees, enhancing remedies available to consumers and setting penalties and legal sanctions for offenders.

“I would urge those involved in the industry, affected consumers and other interest groups to take up this opportunity to have their say in guiding any future decisions on how best to regulate the towing industry in WA.

“Following the consultation period, proposals for new laws will be prepared and presented to Government for consideration.”

The licensing and registration of tow truck vehicles and their equipment is not part of this consultation and are the responsibility of the Department of Transport.

Those interested in making a submission can view or download the Consultation Regulatory Impact Statement from the Consumer Protection website.

Submissions can be emailed to consultations@dmirs.wa.gov.au or sent by post:

Tow Truck Consultation

Consumer Protection

Locked Bag 100, East Perth WA 6892

Submissions on this paper close on Tuesday 22 September 2020.

Some general tips for consumers requiring tow truck services after an accident:

  • The first tow truck on the scene does not have an automatic right to your car – you have the right to decide who tows your vehicle and where it is taken;
  • Tow truck drivers are legally obliged to give you a completed standard Authority to Tow Form before towing, so always make sure to read the fine print and never sign it if sections have been left blank;
  • Although not required by law, make sure that the Authority to Tow Form includes the total cost of towing and storing your vehicle. You should ask for this to be added before signing.
  • Some consumers have been caught-out by signing forms that lock them into having the car repaired by a particular repairer or giving a lawyer permission to act on their behalf;
  • Be prepared – check your insurance policy to see what it covers and for instructions on what to do if you are in an accident. Better yet, keep the number of your insurer on your phone and in your vehicle so you can easily contact them for advice immediately following an accident; and
  • Make sure you know the total cost of the service before you agree to have your car towed.

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Media Contact: Alan Hynd, (08) 6552 9248 / 0429 078 791 / alan.hynd@dmirs.wa.gov.au 

Consumer Protection
Media release
11 Aug 2020

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