Some Tow Truck Companies Charging More Than They Should


UPDATED: Wednesday November 18, 2009 10:47 AM

Day and night, seven days a week, tow trucks prowl the city's streets, searching for people who break the rules.

Most of the towing signs posted across Columbus state that the fine for parking in the wrong spot should be $102, yet 10 Investigates' Paul Aker found some companies charging much more.

10 Investigates wanted to know the rules that tow truck companies have to follow.  We researched the law and then shadowed the drivers to see if they were following it.

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We looked up the Ohio law that is posted on most tow truck companies' own signs.  According to law, tow truck drivers can charge no more than $90 for the tow and $12 a day for storage, totaling $102.

"It bothers me," Miller said.  "I'm in college.  Its money I don't have."

Sierra Miller saw how the real costs often run higher than what the law states.  Her receipt showed that Shamrock Towing charged her with the $90 tow fee and $12 for storage.  Shamrock also charged for taxes and an additional $30 fee.  The company called it an administrative fee.

When Aker confronted Shamrock about the fee, a company co-owner told him that the Ohio attorney general gave him the OK to charge more.  Shamrock claimed the attorney general told him the law is "open" on the subject.

The attorney general's office denied issuing any formal opinion or authorizing tow companies to charge more than the law allows.

Shamrock also told Aker that it needs to charge the extra fee to keep up with the cost of business.  CamCar Towing gave him a different explanation.

CamCar towed Corey Rapseo's car right under its posted sign that said that the tow charge comes to $90 as the law states.  When he caught the tow truck driver about 100 yards away, CamCar quoted a higher price.

"They say if you want (the car back), it will be $134," the tow truck driver told Rapseo.

Without the cash on hand, Rapseo had to let the driver take his car.  Once he picked it up about an hour later, CamCar charged him $125 for the tow, $18 for storage, $5 for paying with a credit card plus tax, totaling $157.65.

"They ripped me off," Rapseo said.

Aker took Rapseo back to CamCar's office to see if there would be a refund.

The company claimed that it did not rip off Rapseo and said its price is right because of a city law.  But the Columbus City Attorney confirmed that the Ohio Legislature invalidated the ordinance in 2003 and now there is no enforceable city law.

"I think it's embarrassing for our state, embarrassing for our city," said Ohio State Rep. Tracy Heard, a Democrat.

Heard said that she has been trying to push through a law that would crack down on tow truck companies. She said that our investigation proves lawmakers need to get handle on the problem.

"There is an opportunity for punishment and that's what we're trying to increase here and for there to be some punitive punishment for those renegade towers," Heard said. 

Until someone makes a change, some tow truck companies will likely keep charging more than the law allows, Aker reported.

10 Investigates checked with the two state agencies that seem like they might have authority in tow truck enforcement but both said that they don't have jurisdiction.

Stay with 10TV News and 10TV.com for additional information.

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