FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Tow truck companies will now have to ‘tow the line’ if they want to keep doing business in Broward County.
Commissioners there have approved new regulations which will make finding a towed car easier, paying to get it released easier and give customers plenty of information about why a car was towed along with an itemized list of charges.
“This is about consumer protection,” said Commissioner Lois Wexler, who brought the updated ordinance forward for Commission approval.
The new regulations were in response to an incident at the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise on the day after Thanksgiving. Thousands of shoppers had packed the mall for Black Friday bargains but more than 300 found their vehicles gone when they were done.
Surveillance video shows one tow truck after another towing cars from the Applebee’s parking lot across from Sawgrass Mills overnight when the restaurant was closed. Police said Applebee’s never authorized the tow company to remove cars from its lot, even though it did have no parking signs. Applebee’s reimbursed those who could prove they were towed from their parking lot.
The county said they received complaints from those who were towed who they claimed they were forced to pay inflated cab fare to the towing company which forced them to pay cash to retrieve their vehicles.
Shoppers said they paid between $100 and $124 in cash to get them back.
The county new ordinance mandates that towing companies accept, at a minimum, a credit card and an ATM card in addition to cash as a method of payment. For those paying cash, change must be provided if necessary.
Towing lots will have to keep regular business hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and provide an itemized list of all charges to customers as well as an explanation of why the services were necessary.
When a vehicle is towed, the Broward Sheriff’s Office or local police department will now be notified and told where the vehicle has been taken. Transported vehicles must be taken directly to a storage facility (not a temporary holding location) and a telephone service must be available to assist customers 24 hours a day.
Tow truck businesses who don’t comply with the new regulations face fines of up to $500 and suspension of their business license.
The new law applies countywide, except for cities that already have stricter rules in place.