Ontario Fights Fraud in the Towing Industry

You’re not planning on being towed this year, but if it happens here’s why you’ll be glad it did so in 2017.

by Mary Wimmer

If you’ve ever been stuck on the side of a road somewhere, than you know just how nerve-wracking it can be to find yourself in need of a tow. But thanks to new legislation from the Ontario provincial government, that roadside situation just got a little less stressful. That’s because new rules for tow trucks are now in effect to protect consumers’ rights. As of January 1, 2017, the towing industry in Ontario must comply with stronger standards for both towing and vehicle storage.

CAA North & East Ontario (CAA NEO) encourages all motorists to get to know what their new rights are by familiarizing themselves with these new requirements.

New Ontario Consumer Rights

Through the Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act, the Government of Ontario has implemented progressive changes that will improve tow and storage services, in addition to tackling insurance fraud. These new rules include ensuring that service providers disclose rates, notify drivers of where their vehicle is being stored, and provide an itemized invoice to consumers. As part of the legislation, new enhancements to Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act also require tow and storage service providers to:

  • Have permission from the consumer or someone acting on their behalf before towing or storing a vehicle
  • Disclose rates and other information, such as the provider's name and telephone number, on tow trucks and in places of business
  • Accept credit card payments from consumers
  • Notify consumers where their vehicle will be towed
  • Allow consumers to access their towed vehicle to remove personal property on business days from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at no charge
  • Provide consumers with an itemized invoice listing the services provided and costs before receiving payment
  • Disclose if they are receiving a financial incentive for towing a vehicle to a particular vehicle storage facility or repair shop

The new regulations establish minimum insurance coverage requirements and prohibit tow and storage providers from charging a higher rate for insurance companies or other third parties. (Exemptions around authorization and invoices will apply if services are provided through a membership association like CAA, where consumers are not charged for the specific service provided.)

Certification for Truck Operators and Storage Service Providers

Under the new legislation, all tow truck operators in Ontario are required to have a valid Commercial Vehicle Operator's Registration (CVOR) certificate. The CVOR system monitors commercial carrier safety to improve road safety for all road users and ensure compliance with the new legislation. By including tow trucks under elements of the CVOR system, some of the benefits include ensuring that tow truck operators are accountable for proper safety maintenance of the vehicles and safe vehicle driving behaviours of the commercial driver.

What these changes mean in total is that consumers now have the tools and rights in place to support their interactions with tow truck operators and vehicle storage providers. These regulations will go a long way toward improving standards in towing and vehicle storage service delivery right across the industry, as well as establishing rights for consumers and enhancing overall trust and confidence in the business.

As an advocate for its Members, CAA NEO has been an active stakeholder in the development of towing regulations in Ontario. The Club is proud of its work, alongside government and industry related stakeholders, toward bringing about these much-needed changes to the industry.