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Public Utilities Commission considers more proposed rule changes to 'Towing Bill of Rights'

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Posted at 6:37 AM, Jul 26, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-26 08:37:35-04

DENVER — Contact Denver7 is continuing to follow up on the efforts to end predatory towing.

Around this time last year, lawmakers passed a bill — known as the Towing Bill of Rights — which overhauled how the state governs the towing industry.

A major change approved in the new law requires tow yards to give a vehicle back after someone has paid 15% of the total fees or $60, whichever is less. However, complaints have come in claiming some towing companies aren't acting in good faith.

"If you needed to get your car and you didn't have all of the money, it appeared that Wyatts [Towing] was looking at adding interest to these loans. That was never the intent of the bill, for there to be any interest charge on these loans," said State Representative Naquetta Ricks, D - Arapahoe, one of the prime sponsors of the Towing Bill of Rights.

Specific rules are now being adjusted and discussed in public hearings with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

"The legislature was extremely clear in HB-1314. When someone can't afford the bill, they can pay $60, provide that PUC form and get their their car back. It's just become very clear over the last six months that most towing carriers in the state aren't following the law," said Zach Neumann with the Community Economic Defense Project.

Neumann said some of their clients were forced to sign up for loans before receiving their car back.

The Attorney General's Consumer Protection Section spoke out against the practice during Tuesday's PUC hearing. They recommended language expressing that a towing career cannot require a consumer to sign into a compulsory loan agreement in exchange for getting their car back.

Wyatts Towing didn't push back against the suggestion.

"I don't think the [towing] industry believes that we're going to create a new business model over predatory lending or anything like that. We don't have a strong opinion on being able to charge interest or not," said Trevor Forbes of Wyatts Towing, who also encouraged there to be more clear language on what's allowed and what isn't.

Other proposed changes were discussed without much conflict either.

A proposed rule now includes an "authorized operator" in addition to the car's owner as to who is allowed to pick up a car from a lot.

A proposed payment schedule was discussed, as well, initially written that the remaining towing fee balance would need to be paid to the tow company no less than 30 days but no more than 60 days later. Forbes recommended giving consumers an additional 30 days to pay off their balance, bringing the maximum time to 90 days. The idea was supported by other stakeholders at the public hearing.

None of the proposed rules have been finalized yet. The PUC has scheduled another public hearing on those changes for August 31.