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Pay phones in the release area

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California law requires anyone doing PPI towing to have a working pay phone in the release area or face legal action. I have been looking and looking and can't for the life of me find anything that isn't old, beat up or just plain stupid expensive. What's everybody else doing to meet this requirement of the law? I'm stuck.

Also, we use VOIP internet based phones and can't plug a landline phone into them. I am certainly not getting a landline account at all three yards just for the stupid pay phone so what the heck....

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Wow.. in this day and age of practically everyone, their kid, and their dog having a cell phone, that law sure seems outdated.


Pay phones are pretty rare in the wild no matter where you are, yet California insists YOU as a business owner have to provide them?  That's nuts.


Sorry I don't have anything helpful to add other than to sympathize with you on the crappy law.



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Certainly sounds like an outdated regulation. Kind of like an early 1900's law that is supposedly still on the books here in NY ( albeit, I havent been able to find any such law but, I have heard this from more than one person ) that mandates that all motorized vehicles have someone on foot, horseback or bicycle at least 1000' ahead of it with a red lantern announcing a motor vehicle is coming through. 

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I like these posts that challenge a really close look at how small details of law can impact one's tow businesses. I'd like to jump into this fight having been in both California law enforcement and towing nearly all my life. In-advance ... I apologize for the length. 


Fact:  One doesn't have to be a member of an association to read and know PPI laws of any state.  KUDO'S Mr. Car for being knowlegable of the proper side of the law. California's PPI impound law, 22658, is one of the most extensive, lengthy and all inclusive PPI laws of all states. 


It's my perception that, while the, "Letter of the Law", in-part says tow companies, "has a public pay phone", this  section of law ISN'T written with specific wording to include that the phone has to be working or operable. How ignorant is this section as it regards current day technology and wording I believe is questionable and outdated. OK, I know what some of you are gonna' say, but could the missing wording be a loop-hole, or is it just my flippant response? Perhaps it could be one or the other, but, none-the-less, there's NO wording specific to the phone's operational capability. If it were to come down to the sake of argument in court, I'd personally stand my ground and provide a reasonable rebuttal based on today's towing operations. Only the court can decide.


Found deep within the narrative of California's PPI law defines, Sub-section 22658 (n)(c)(3), it states - "Has a public pay telephone in the office area that is open and accessible to the public."


At one time, San Diego's (and elsewhere), the local predatory towing was so out-of-control, this section was completely re-defined so to curtail tow companies that were beyond control. Their illegal actions ultimately resulted in a predatory task force within the District Attotney's Office, called, the, "Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit."


I believe the reason to counter is simple: The, "Spirit of the Law", suggests, and, it's my opinion that, everyone who doesn't have a phone doesn't have one, not because they can't afford it ... they don't have a cell-phone because they don't want one. Even people who are unemployed and living on the streets have a pay phone. Even my five-year-old grandson has a cell-phone, and, for the person whose car is in-impound, if they don't have a phone, I'm confident someone with them has a phone. But, then again, I don't make the laws.


Allow me to submit an article link, from the San Diego Union newspaper that covered this topic in 2016 and is a valuable rebuttal NOT to have a pay-phone at your tow company, but leads to other means in providing customers with phone service.


Link:  https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/data-watch/sdut-sdc-pay-phones-2016apr14-htmlstory.html


Most of the companies I know offer, on-request, the use of a land-line phone with FREE-CALL capability, but that phone is plugged into their hard-wired system for their business offices. They have a sign next to their rate boards inviting customers to request a manager or supervisor regarding "special requests."  Even small tow companies have land-line systems to provide requesting customers phone service. While this post isn't legal advice, if you allow a, "requesting customer", to use a phone, by all means direct them to an office phone. If you're that one owner, budget tow company, working out of your tow truck with only your cell-phone and have no hard-wired phone in your tow yard's trailer, your's is a decision you'll have to make to be in compliance with the law.  BTW ... Amazon sells Pay-Phones, but require a hard-line.


My mid-sized company had an inside desk-phone that could be made available for, "requesting customers", however, that meant customer's would come inside the business office, even after hours. To not allow customers into the office goes against, "open and accessible". But, that was year's back and the safety and security needs of today's tow businesses are far more necessary than ever based on customer violence. Additionally, I'm not offering our company's or my personal cell-phones to unhappy and disgruntled vehicle owners only to have them tuck tail and run. Note:  Since I began towing in the mid-1960's, my parent's company and my own was never accused of not having a pay-phone, but then again, my business wasn't operating outside of the law. Perhaps the inclusion of this section was to curtail and enforce companies providing illegal PPI practices? 


My comments are how I interpret 22658 CVC. Under no circumstances am I providing legal advice or council.  I don't believe any tow company employee would be arrested for not providing the use of any phone upon request, UNLESS, there are other mitigating factors.  I'm pretty sure the cops have better things to do.         R.








Edited by rreschran
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Randall C. Resch

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  • 1 month later...

Who is enforcing phone law a simple phone call to agency responsible will tell you if that part of law is even enforced anymore.Here in NY we went by state law .Our town and village dont have any laws about ppi.We ended up in court because angry customer did some deep research.Turned out our county has a law that favors

illegally parked cars technically it makes it almost illegal to do ppi's. Judge made us give back part of fees on a technicality.We did our own research and found out after that we were 100% in the right and didnt have to give back any money.We had 4 police cars on premises overseeing our impounds which as the law states made our impounds 100% legal.Judge didnt know law didnt care.Point being read laws carefully make phone calls to all agencies involved.Know more than they do and carry copies of ppi laws in trucks along with any paperwork from agencies if you need certain things related to laws or not.

Kevin's American Towing Service
Ph: 631-654-8811

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can remember one being on the wall, but it's been gone so long now. I recall a phone that looked sort like a blow fish that took quarters. Either someone stole it or it broke and got tossed. Did anyone else have one of those? the pay phone on the wall was not ours, the one on the counter was.

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  • 8 months later...

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