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Councillor wants bylaw to target 'chaser' towing companies


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Coun. Shawn Lewis says he had to deal with 'aggressive' tow truck drivers while trying to talk to police

 

After experiencing what he calls 'aggressive' sales tactics by tow truck drivers at the scene of a collision, Coun. Shawn Lewis is asking city staff to draft a bylaw that would ban roadside solicitation by London towing companies.

Lewis, who represents Ward 2, was driving home from the Argyle Business Improvement Area Santa Claus parade in early December when was involved in a collision.

There were no injuries, but both vehicles were too damaged to drive. 

Almost immediately, drivers from two different tow truck companies arrived at the scene and tried to convince Lewis and the other driver to give them their business. 

"They were fairly aggressive at a time when we were tyring to talk to the [police] officer," said Lewis. "This tow truck driver was hovering right there saying 'I need to talk to you. I can do this cheaper.' It was very aggressive roadside soliciting."  

Pushy sales tactics?

Lewis opted to call Ross' Towing and Transportation. Since 2014, the London company has had an exclusive contract to handle all police requests for tows, though drivers are free to call a towing company of their choice.

Lewis said people who've been involved in a collision shouldn't have to deal with pushy sales tactics, especially if they're shaken up or confused about their rights.

"I mean, you've just been in an accident, you're car is wrecked," he said. "You're very emotionally wound up. It would be very easy to be taken advantage of."

At Tuesday's Community and Protective Services Committee meeting, Lewis will submit a motion that asks city staff to draft a bylaw that would essentially outlaw roadside soliciting. 

The bylaw would require tow truck operators to stay a minimum distance away from drivers at the scene of a collision. It would also prevent tow truck drivers from hooking up a vehicle without permission from the vehicle owner or emergency responders at the scene.

Lewis is asking London staff to look at other municipalities that have such bylaws, including Toronto and Waterloo.

Ian Bondy, owner of City Wide Towing, said Lewis's draft bylaw is aimed at the right target: so-called "chaser" companies that instead of waiting for a service call, rush to collision scenes or follow emergency vehicles in hopes of hooking a customer. 

Bondy has been in business since 1994 and says his company only responds to customer calls. 

"The last thing drivers need is to be solicited by a tow truck driver," he said. "They're not thinking straight. They're upset and here's someone trying to tow their car away without their consent. I don't agree with that."

Lewis also said it's important that towing companies are transparent about their rates. 

Ross's rates are listed  here on the Police Services Board website. They also have a rate card in their trucks. 

Ian Bondy of City Wide also keeps a rate card in the truck and says he intends to post his rates on the company's website. 

Michael Ross says he supports Lewis's move to stop chaser companies from pressuring drivers at the roadsie. 

"It's a dangerous practice," said Ross. "People are rushing to the scene. There are a lot of benefits to enforcing a bylaw like this."

Lewis's motion asking staff to draft a bylaw was passed by committee.

He believes such a bylaw will get enough support to be passed by council. 

 

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