Senator Fuschillo, Assemblyman Weisenberg, And Oyster Bay Town Clerk Labriola Announce New State Law To Stop Predatory Towing Practices

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

July 30, 2008

The law requires private lots to conspicuously post signs stating that unauthorized vehicles will be towed at the owner’s expense, and require commercial tow companies that tow from private lots to accept at least two credit or debit cards, one of which must be a bank credit or debit card, for the convenience of consumers. In addition, the law prohibits private lot owners from accepting "kick-backs" or sharing in any proceeds earned by towing companies that tow from their lot.

"Far too often, people have returned to a parking lot to find their car missing, only to discover that it was towed because they parked in an area without obviously visible tow warning signs. They then are often forced to pay exorbitant, cash-only fees in order to get it back. This new law will help end these predatory practices and require parking lot owners and tow companies to be upfront and honest about their policies,” said Senator Fuschillo, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection and Senate sponsor of the law.

     “Over the last few years, predatory towing has become blatant on Long Island. This is a problem that needed to be addressed because too many people were being treated unfairly and without consideration. This law will help ensure that towing in New York State is done fairly and equitably,” said Assemblyman Weisenberg, who sponsored the legislation in the Assembly.

    “These predator towers are modern day parking lot pirates, plundering the vehicles of unsuspecting motorists.  This law will support legitimate towing operators by enabling law enforcement to effectively combat this corrupt behavior by predatory towing companies.  Prohibiting kickbacks or fee splitting between lot owners and towing companies will also remove an incentive to aggressively patrol the private lots.  These are common sense measures that will protect consumers and go a long way in reforming this industry and protecting the public,” said Town Clerk Labriola, whose office is charged with regulating the towing industry in the Town of Oyster Bay and who worked closely with Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman Weisenberg in getting the new law passed.

Predatory towing has been a problem for many New York State motorists. Some tow companies will lure drivers to forbidden parking areas that do not have adequate no parking signs. Others will use spotters equipped with binoculars and walkie-talkies to summon tow trucks at a moment’s notice. A number of tow companies also accept only cash. Some tow companies are also paying kickbacks to parking lot owners who give them exclusive rights to tow cars from their lots.

Local governments will also be allowed to enact their own regulations to combat predatory towing in addition to the state law. The State Attorney General will also be empowered to stop businesses from performing such practices and seek civil damages under the law.

The new law takes effect on October 19, 2008.