Victims of predatory towing using hotline, getting money back

The city's new ordinance has prompted four successful complaints so far, and now a new towing hotline is bringing in many more complaints.

Indianapolis

Months after Fox59 News uncovered predatory towing practices in Indianapolis, the city is stepping up and helping people get their money back. The city's new ordinance has prompted four successful complaints so far, and now a new towing hotline is bringing in many more complaints.

Hazel Walker's meal at Tavern on South this weekend was interrupted after she mistakingly parked in the wrong lot.

"I said, 'No, don't take my car,'" Walker said. "He goes, 'Well I can drop it but it's going to cost you $100.'"

Hazel later realized the lot was marked and she managed to pay the drop fee thanks to friends. She kept her receipt and decided to call the new city towing hotline because something didn't seem right.

"I'm going to ask for my $100 back," Walker said. "I don't know that I'll get it, but I'm going to ask."

Fox59 News asked Indianapolis License Administrator Adam Collins, who said it sounds like Walker will probably see some of her money returned.

"There's an unhook fee that can be up to half the amount that is charged (for a tow), so $75 is the cap," Collins said.

Walker's call is one of 30 complaints made since the city towing hotline launched late last week. Collins said 20 of those complaints warrant investigation.

"I can tell you quite honestly that the position we're going to take is that the tie goes to the runner," Collins said. "If the tow companies don't have the information, they can't validate what they've done, they'll ultimately be held responsible."

Walker's complaint is against Interstate Towing, which leads all companies with six complaints. Last Chance Towing has five complaints. Pro Tow has two and Zore's and Hanna's both have one.

"For most of these types of complaints we'll give (the towing company) a week to investigate, to provide any documentation they may have and get that back to us," Collins said.

That process has already paid off for Troy Hardister.

"I cashed it right away and got my money back," Hardister said, in reference to a check he received from Interstate Towing.

Hardister is one of many people who complained after being towed from a group of interconnected parking lots at a retail area near IUPUI.

"I parked outside of Taco Bell, went in to Taco Bell to get something to eat, and I come back out and my car is gone," Hardister said. "It just doesn't make sense to me."

It didn't make sense to the city either, and Hardister said he's happy to see results.

"I think it's great because the more people that complain, the (better) the chances of other towing companies seeing it and not doing it," Hardister said. "I mean, it's just going to help all the way around."

So far, all four of the complaints that have resulted in payments have come from Interstate Towing. Hardister and another victim said they both received calls from the company apologizing for what happened.

So far, Collins said the city is giving towing companies a chance to correct their mistakes without a formal hearing, but he said that policy could soon change for companies that don't appear to be learning from their mistakes.

The towing ordinance:
  • Caps tow fees at $150 and storage fees at $30 a day
  • Signs must be posted in plain view at the entrance and exit of a lot
  • You must be able to claim your car 24 hours a day, seven days a week
  • A representative of the property owner must sign the tow order for each tow
  • All towing companies must accept both cash and credit cards

If you have a complaint to file against a towing company you can call (317) 327-TOWS or you can email tows@indy.gov.

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