The towing industry in southern Ontario has been more visible in the media in recent months as an alleged turf war between rival towing companies has seen numerous tow trucks set on fire.
After receiving multiple complaints about the towing industry ranging from exorbitant fees to stolen vehicles and high storage yard fees, Toronto Police Services, Durham Regional Police Services and Ontario Provincial police launched Project Bondar in October, 2019.
Working with the Insurance Bureau of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Transport, Project Bondar was intended to “ensure compliance with legislation and also to meet with and educate tow truck providers on best practices and consumer protection laws”.
In a sweep which included 8 search warrants in Brampton, Scarborough, Etobicoke, Ajax, Clarington, Pickering and Whitby, police recovered 31 vehicles worth about $900,000. The vehicles included a BMW M4, a Ferrari 488 and 8 tow trucks, two of which had been burnt.
As a result of the raids, police handed out 92 Consumer Protection Act charges, 149 various Provincial Offences Act charges and 17 Criminal Code charges.
The moments following even a minor collision can be confusing at best, so Project Bondar offers these tips for consumers to keep safe.
● Know what your insurance policy covers. See if you have roadside assistance coverage and what the limits are. If you’ve been in a collision, find out how your car insurance company handles towing and how much your insurer will cover.
● Don’t let a towing operator take your vehicle until you view a Government of Ontario Towing Consumer Bill of Rights. You should be shown a towing and storage rate sheet listing towing fees, daily storage fees (if any), and all other miscellaneous charges.
● You should be given a copy of an ‘Authorization to Tow’ form that includes where your vehicle will be towed to as well as the driver’s name and contact information.
● Make sure that the company name on the town truck matches the documentation and do not agree to a demand for a cash payment to release your vehicle without consulting your insurance company first.
● Do not give out your insurance information. Some fraudulent tow operators use this information for additional scams, like calling the victim and pretending to be their insurer or providing it to a health practitioner.
● If you suspect fraud or if the tow truck driver refuses to leave, call the police.