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Ontario to take over licensing and oversight of tow truck industry


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Ontario is taking tow truck services out of the hands of municipalities and requiring tow truck operators to be certified and adhere to a Code of Conduct.


“This marks the end of municipal regulation of towing and storage operators, with the province set to handle their certification and oversight,” Insurance Bureau of Canada notes in a blog post published today.


The new regulations take effect starting Jan. 1, 2024. Drivers will then be able to:

  • Decide who tows their vehicle and where it is towed.
  • Receive and review the “Consent to Tow” form and “Maximum Rate Schedule” before towing begins. This form cannot be altered by the towing company, and IBC recommends drivers not to sign the form if it is blank.
  • Choose the payment method, including credit, debit, and contactless payment through their phone, and receive an itemized invoice before paying and a receipt after.
  • Ask to see their tow operator’s name and certificate number.

In addition, Ontario will require the certification of all towing and storage operators in the province.


“If you want to verify a tow truck driver is certified before accepting the tow, you can check if their name and certificate number matches what appears on the government’s towing and storage website, which is expected to be available in early January,” IBC states.


Also, the government has created a Code of Conduct to help protect drivers.


“The Code of Conduct, which also goes into effect on Jan. 1, will require towing and storage operators to exhibit professionalism, courtesy, and fairness toward the public and each other; prioritize customer safety; and provide services in an honest and transparent manner, among other standards,” IBC states.


“If you believe a tow truck driver has violated any of the regulations or the Code of Conduct, you’ll be able to make an anonymous report through the government’s complaints portal, which is scheduled to be launched in late January.”


The province’s auto insurers have been lobbying for this change for years, having seen examples of unethical billings by tow truck operators and even violent criminal behaviour. For some time, the insurance industry has told CU stories about dealing with tow truck operators who take damaged cars to unscrupulous repair shops and then receive a cut of what the shop bills insurers.


Now, the new regulations allow drivers to “permit their auto insurance representative to engage directly with towing and storage operators to help expedite the claim process,” IBC says. “The insurance representative will have the right to consent to towing services, access vehicles, and request their release.”


Minimizing towing and storage costs is one way auto insurers address their claims costs. One famous example of how these costs can escalate is a May 2019 dispute between Intact and a tow truck operator that wound up in court over the towing company’s $70-per-day storage fees.


Intact made 108 applications to have the court grant Intact permission to take possession of a vehicle stored by J.P. Towing while the dispute over storage fees was being resolved. Intact ultimately lost the substantive part of its challenge and the court ordered Intact to pay J.P. Towing nearly $37,000 in legal costs.


Another story shared with CU is how tow truck operators would go out of their way to take a damaged vehicle to the municipality charging the higher towing fees instead of the nearest municipality that charged lower rates.


Ontario has introduced several new laws over the past several years in an effort to make the tow truck drivers’ costs more transparent and fair for consumers. But until now, the issue for insurers was the lack of consistency across municipal tow truck licensing and oversight regimes.



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