War on Car? Toronto Towing Fees Up 100% in March, 2011?

Update: see previous post – October 6, 2011 Toronto Towing is Down, Grinding Gridlock is Up

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A big increase in tow truck rates has been put off until at least next spring after a city council committee decided it wants a wide-ranging study of the issue.

City staff propose that accident tows be increased to $229 plus $107 if winching is required, for a total of $336. The current charge is either $166 from roadways or $188 from highways.

The insurance industry doesn’t recommend bringing in a special charge for winching, because it could end up on the bill whether that service was required or not.

“We noticed a change in the City of Mississauga once they allowed this approximately a year ago in that almost every bill that was submitted to us had a winching charge on it,” said Mark Lockwood of RBC General Insurance.

“Simply put, most customers don’t really know what that would even be,” Lockwood said.

Council’s licensing and standards committee postponed any increase until after the city has consulted with affected parties, including tow truck operators, insurers, police and other jurisdictions. A report is due next March 29.

The committee was disappointed to learn that any vehicle lacking licence plates can’t legally be towed. The members want to hear from police on what can be done to tow unplated vehicles parked illegally on city streets.

Committee members said they have heard examples of towing bills in the hundreds of dollars after a damaged car has been towed to one of three collision reporting centres and then to a body shop.

Lockwood said the ultimate tab may include a tow-out fee, dolly fee, wait-time fee, mileage fee and administration fee. He said he’s seen bills ranging from $600 to $800 “depending how good the people are at writing fiction.”

People are already stressed-out having to call for a tow and shouldn’t have to be concerned about exorbitant fees, said Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, a committee member. “I think most of us have had experiences with tow trucks. The last thing we want to have to worry about is the guy in the truck ripping me off, is he giving me the right rate?”

People may think it’s not a problem because the insurance company pays, but the high costs are passed directly to the customers, Lockwood said.

“It is a direct flow-through cost. There’s no question if a client is charged $1,000, then that cost is sent on to the consumer. If a client is charged $200 for an accident tow, then of course that’s the charge that’s going to be passed on.”

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