SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation designed to protect Illinois motorists from excessive fees and other abuses from unlawful towing companies. Senate Bill 435, sponsored by State Senator Edward Maloney (D-Chicago) and State Representative Kevin A. McCarthy (D-Orland Park), protects consumers by regulating the towing of damaged or disabled vehicles from public streets and highways.
“The last thing anybody should have to worry about after a car accident is whether the person towing their vehicle is going to rip them off and add to their trouble,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “This bill will help protect thousands of drivers from unlicensed towers who prey on accident scenes.”
The bill directly addresses the problem of unlicensed towers, or “safety relocators,” showing up at car accident scenes, removing vehicles, and charging excessive fees – sometimes $1,000 or more – with little or no recourse for the motorist or the insurance company.
The bill requires that these “safety relocators” be licensed by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), and also establishes the following consumer protections for owners of damaged or disabled vehicles:
- The customer must authorize a tow before it occurs.
- Prior to towing, the tower must provide or disclose the following to the vehicle owner or operator:
- The address of the location where vehicle will be towed;
- Costs for towing, storage, and any other fees that could be incurred;
- Itemized description of owner/operator’s rights, including:
- Right to a final itemized invoice
- Right to get vehicle returned during normal business hours
- Right to pay in cash or by credit card
- Right to see proof of insurance
- At the tower’s storage facility they must prominently display a list of the above rights.
- Tow trucks must have the name, address and phone number displayed on the truck.
- They must keep records of all invoices and disclosures for five years, and provide them upon request by the ICC.
- Contracts, releases and forms are not allowed to contain waivers of liability for the tower.
If the tower does not comply with the above requirements, the owner cannot be charged any fees whatsoever. Violators can have their towing licenses suspended and can be fined or prosecuted.
The bill also extends existing consumer protections to owners of large trucks that are towed from private property.
SB 435 becomes effective July 1, 2008.