JULY 29, 2015--As part of an initiative to combat predatory towing in New Jersey, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has reached settlements with six towing companies that allegedly violated the State’s predatory towing law, with the companies collectively agreeing to pay $55,106 in civil penalties, consumer restitution and reimbursement for investigative and legal costs.
“Imagine returning to a parking lot and finding your car gone, and being left stranded. Even worse, imagine if warning signs were either not posted or inadequate, in violation of our Predatory Towing Prevention Act,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “These actions are part of a larger initiative to make sure that predatory towing does not occur in our state.”
The Predatory Towing Prevention Act, which became effective on April 15, 2009, regulates towing from private property, and towing initiated by law enforcement, that occur without the prior consent of the towed vehicle’s owner or operator. This law prohibits towing companies, among other things, from charging an unreasonable or excessive fee; failing to release a vehicle hooked or lifted, but not actually removed from private property, upon request of the vehicle’s owner; trolling for vehicles parked without authorization; or charging for a towing or storage service not on the schedule of services maintained by the Division of Consumer Affairs.
Additionally, unattended cars cannot be towed from private parking lots unless there is a sign posted at the vehicular entrances of the property which states, among other things, the times when parking is permitted; that unauthorized parking is prohibited; the name and contact information for the towing company which is responsible for towing unauthorized vehicles, and the charges for towing and storage, along with the times that the vehicle could be retrieved.
“The Division’s initiative to combat predatory towing is mainly about fairness,” noted Steve Lee, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “Consumers who have their cars towed should be able to easily determine when and where the car can be picked up, and should not be subject to excessive fees or hidden charges.”
These six companies that entered into settlements with the Division of Consumer Affairs are as follows, with a summary of allegations and settlement amounts noted:
- JAB Towing, Inc.
Allegations included towing vehicles from private property without the private property owner’s authorization; failing to adhere to signage requirements; and failing to include on invoices the time vehicles were delivered to the storage facility.
- JH C2C Corp.
d/b/a “Coast to Coast Towing”
Allegations included engaging in non-consensual towing without having a contract with the private property owners; engaging in non-consensual towing in a location lacking proper signage; and failing to retain copies of all invoices, logs, and receipts for a period of three years.
- Jim & Renee Enterprises, Inc.
d/b/a “J&R Sunoco”
Allegations included engaging in towing without having a contract with the private property owners; engaging in non-consensual towing in a location lacking proper signage; failing to retain copies of all invoices, logs, and receipts for a period of three years; and monitoring private property for the purpose of identifying vehicles to tow.
- Parking Lot & Towing Mgmt., LLC
West Orange, $2,000
Allegations included engaging in non-consensual towing without having a contract with the private property owners; engaging in non-consensual towing in a location lacking proper signage; and failing to maintain a storage facility that has a business office open to the public between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. at least five days a week.
- Rite Away Towing, LLC
Allegations included engaging in non-consensual towing without having a contract with the private property owners; engaging in non-consensual towing in a location lacking proper signage; and charging unauthorized fees.
- SRS Autoplex Corp.
d/b/a “SRS Towing”
Allegations included engaging in non-consensual towing in a location lacking proper signage and failing to maintain all required records, including invoices for both consensual and non-consensual towing services.
The consent orders referenced above were filed between November 2014 and April 2015.
Investigators Joe Rothstein, Kelly Fennell and Michael Bruch in the Division of Consumer Affairs Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigations.
Deputy Attorneys General David M. Reap, Kent D. Anderson, Mark E. Critchley, Alina Wells and Jeffrey Koziar, and DAG/Assistant Chief Patricia Schiripo, in the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, represented the State in these settlements.
To learn more about the Predatory Towing Prevention Act, see the Consumer Brief.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.