CHICAGO (CBS) — New reforms are in the works to protect Chicago car accident victims from predatory towing companies.
For years, the CBS 2 Investigators have been reporting on accident chasers–towing companies that listen to police scanners and then show up at crash sites. The companies charge inflated fees to rip off insurance companies or car owners who don’t even have insurance.
Like the Morrows, who we met last month. Area 1 Towing hooked up their damaged car and later demanded $4,700 for the tow, storage and questionable fees including including $290 for a COVID-19 cleaning.
The Murrows could not afford those costs and faced losing their car.
“I haven’t got words to express the anger,” said Chris Morrow. “We were the victims of a towing truck scam.”
After they complained to CBS 2, the towing company got fined by the Illinois Commerce Commission and was threatened with a lawsuit .
It was a triple whammy that got the couple their car back Monday for a fee reduced from $4,000 to $400.
Now their alderman is proposing new regulations –as a first step to ending industry abuses in Chicago.
“This is just the wild west right now in this industry,” said Ald. Gilbert Villegas. “These bad actors, we’re going to try to put pressure on them until they clean up, or we’re going to try and put them out of business.”
He already proposed strengthening the no police scanner law by prohibiting towing companies from using them to drum up business. He also wants to require city licenses to tow in Chicago, city oversight of fee disclosures and having police call pre-screened tow companies to accident scenes.
“You story brought a lot attention to it and put some wind in our sails,” said Villegas. “We appreciate that because now a lot of my colleagues have some of the same stories.”
Stories like Morrows.
Toward that end, hearings before the City Council’s licensing committee are planned to help flush out towing industry rules.