Q&A - Trouble With the Towing Company

Q&A ImageQUESTION: I was given a 24 hour Driving Prohibition in Richmond BC in December 2009. When I called the tow company after 24 hours to get their address, I was told that there was a police hold on the Vehicle. This so called hold carried on until I contacted the RCMP Officer who had issued me the 24 Hr Suspension. He got back to me 12 days later, saying that there was no record of a Police Hold on the vehicle, and that he had removed this hold.

When I went to get my vehicle back, the tow company gave me an invoice of $153.25 for the tow, however they also wanted me to pay $500+ for the 12 days of storage. If I did not pay this, they would keep billing me by the day. The other option they gave me was to sign my car over to them. I was given a blank transfer form to sign. The tow company refused to fill out this form completely.

Today the tow company claims that they have scrapped the vehicle, however they have not even transfered the title to their name. Aren't they required to transfer title at $0 before they scrap the vehicle?

Also the tow company has no log or record of what RCMP Officer put a hold (if this is true), or any other information. Can I get my car back, since it was taken from me for no fault of mine (car value about $1500.00)?

ANSWER: I'm a bit confused by the last sentence in the first paragraph. If there was no hold on the vehicle, why did the officer remove the hold? Is it possible that you mean he called the towing company to confirm that there had never been a hold on the vehicle?

It is now standard practice for the police to impound a vehicle for 24 hours along with the issue of a 24 hour prohibition to a driver who is impaired by either alcohol or another drug. However, at the expiry of the 24 hour period the vehicle should be returned to you by the towing company if you pay the towing and storage fees.

I have required that the towing company not release a vehicle until they had heard from me as part of an investigation of an incident. A 24 hour prohibition alone is not sufficient grounds for any type of hold beyond the 24 hours provided for by the law.

If you can establish that the police never placed a hold, the towing company has made an error and you should not be required to pay for their mistake. You have a number of avenues to proceed with at this point.

The first is to take advantage of the Lawyer Referral Service. The service will help you find a local lawyer who has experience with this type of problem. They will consult for up to 30 minutes without fee. 

The lawyer should be able to provide advice from two views, civil and criminal. If there is a criminal case, this knowledge will help you deal with police if they try to deflect your complaint saying that it is a civil matter.

The second is to make a complaint with the Better Business Bureau

Finally, you may wish to take advantage of Small Claims Court

Towing companies are often members of the Automotive Retailers Association of BC, but a quick visit to their site leaves me with the impression that they don't handle complaints about their members. There is an e-mail address on the page for the Towing and Recovery Division consultant and you could inquire further.


Trouble With the Towing Company

 Thanks for your quick response, and detailed explanations.

Firstly, you are correct and I should have clarify, the officer did confirm with that there was never a hold on the vehicle. And he asked the Tow Truck Company to give the vehicle back. I did take this to 'small claims court' against the towing company, still in the works.

They showed up at the settlement conference (with a lawyer) last month with 2 papers to show that the vehicle had (1) been transferred and (2) scrapped. However when I viewed the papers later, the VIN number did not match the scrap claim. Also ICBC records show that I am still the registered owner of the vehicle, so both papers they presented are false. They were trying to argue that the vehicle was abandoned, and there is an automatic hold on such vehicles. However I have a 24 hr prohibition notice to prove that It was towed by the police.

I will seek further advice from a lawyer with regards to this. 

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