When you’re stranded on the road, or have just been in accident, chances are you may need the services of a tow operator. Now, imagine that after being towed somewhere, you find out the bill will be $3000 for hook-up and a week in storage — and you’re on the hook for the huge bill.
“It was unreal,” said Andrew Tenney, of Keswick, Ont., who was ticketed by Ontario Provincial Police on a stunt-driving charge on Highway 407. His case has not gone to court.
A condition of the charge is that Tenney had his vehicle impounded for a week. His truck was towed from the highway by Secure Towing Limited to the company’s yard on Vanley Crescent in North York.
Tenney says he was not initially told anything about the towing fee and storage charges even though companies are now required to disclose that information under new rules governing Ontario’s towing industry, which came into effect on January 1.
Tenney told Global News the tow truck operator claimed he didn’t know the fees. But when Tenney reached someone at the Secure Towing offices later, he got a shock.
“He said it was $550 for a hook-up, $75 in Highway 407 fees, $300 per day for storage, and the list keeps going.”
Other consumers have also had recent problems with Secure Towing.
“At the beginning, they told me $3100 – ‘Sorry about your luck, you’re already getting a deal.’ A deal?” said Hamilton resident Mike Budgell. “It was unreal.”
The 23-year-old was ticketed by an OPP officer on April 14 and charged with stunt driving. His traffic case has also not come to court.
Like Tenney, his vehicle was lifted by a Secure Towing truck. Budgell says he was not advised in advance what the company intended to charge. Later, when he reached staff at the shop, he bristled at the price demanded.
“When I got hold of the boss, he said it will cost $1950 plus tax ($2203), or $1500 cash,” said Budgell. “It’s absurd.”
Both Budgell and Tenney contacted Global News to complain about the company’s practices and billing demands, which appear to exceed limits in most municipalities.
“This is overkill,” said Budgell, who asked Global News to investigate.
Outside its offices, Simon Nafaliev, who said he spoke for Secure Towing, shrugged and denied the company was attempting to overcharge clients.
“In response, people shouldn’t be speeding on the highway,” said Naftaliev, who disputed that the company had done anything improper.
Later, other employees appearing to work for Secure Towing who said they were familiar with the cases mocked Global News journalists.
“I was actually terrified,” said Alissa Korytko, Budgell’s girlfriend, who accompanied him to retrieve the vehicle from Secure Towing.
“People were following us around, videotaping us, recording us — all we wanted was our car,” Korytko said.
Eventually, under the glare of Global News camera crews and with the earlier intervention of a veteran tow operator, Secure Towing agreed to reduce Budgell’s bill from more than $2000 to less than $600.
In Tenney’s case, the $3000 bill shrank to $1102.
“People like that need to be removed from the industry,” Tenney said, adding he was grateful the cases of overcharging were exposed by Global News.
— With files by Alana MacLeod