For nearly a decade, CAA in Ontario has been advocating for greater safety standards, enhanced consumer protection measures and elevated professionalism for all towing operators across the province.
The current lack of provincial oversight in the towing industry has left motorists unsure and vulnerable about what the rules are and how to protect themselves from fraudulent activities when they need towing. Existing, but limited, provincial laws aimed at protecting motorists are currently found under in the Consumer Protection Act and the Repair and Storage Liens Act. These laws are difficult to enforce and offer little in the way of legal or financial problem resolution when disputing inaccurate and inflated charges.
On June 29, 2020, the Government of Ontario announced an internal task force that will provide recommendations to reform the towing industry. This announcement was a result of continued media coverage related to insurance fraud, dishonest practices, increased tension and violence among towing providers.
At present, only 18 of Ontario’s 444 municipalities have bylaws regulating towing. That is less than five percent of all communities across the province. Municipal enforcement without clear guidelines or a provincial framework leaves much to be desired by both the towing industry and consumers. The existing patchwork of municipal bylaws causes large gaps in the expectations of towing providers, does not provide a level of consistency when it comes to service and leaves the motoring public with little recourse. It also doesn’t account for how people get around when leaving their home municipality whether they are doing so for work, recreation or any other need.
The Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rate Act of 2014 (Bill 15) received the unanimous support of all MPPs at Queen’s Park in 2014. Its many aspects took two years to implement. The Act was meant to be a first step toward better transparency and clarity for motorists and their rights when needing towing services and some new standards and expectations from the tow industry.
To further publicize these new protection measures and to address consumers’ biggest fears noted from a 2017 motorist survey, CAA developed the Towing Bill of Rights in 2018. The glovebox-sized card listed eight consumer legal rights added into the Ontario Consumer Protection Act. It is available for download at towrights.ca.
A public opinion survey commissioned by CAA in April 2020 showed that only one in five Ontarians felt “very protected” under current rules and regulations. A resounding 90% of Ontarians surveyed support regulations such as tow truck licensing, training certifications for tow operators and provincial oversight of the industry.
CAA supports the Government of Ontario’s actions toward reforming the tow industry. We will continue to collaborate with the government and work with stakeholders, including policing and tow industry partners, to develop comprehensive solutions to ensure the concerns of CAA Members and the motoring public are heard. CAA’s aim is to advocate for better consumer protection measures and a level of consistency no matter where motorists find themselves broken down or in a collision across the province.
Provincial oversight should be established so that it will:
- include licensing of the towing industry
- guarantee that better consumer protection measures are in place
- provide a consistent set of training, rules and guidelines for tow operators
- establish penalties for those who do not follow the rules and recourse for those who have been wronged