The Washington Post reports on “predatory towing,” a trend that is leading to consumer complaints in Montgomery County, Md. To make sure that spaces turn over for their customers, some businesses hire towing companies to enforce parking rules. Some towing companies use spotters to monitor lots, officials said, calling in wreckers the moment there's a violation. Their motivation is money: Some businesses pay a flat rate to towing companies, but other towing firms receive a commission for each vehicle towed. Local officials said that creates an incentive for them to be aggressive.
Of all the complaints pouring into the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection—credit card scams and overly persistent telemarketers, for instance—among the most common are those about towing companies that haul away cars with what some officials say is uncommon aggressiveness. Towing companies haul away 30,000 to 40,000 vehicles a year, according to Montgomery officials, whose powers to regulate towing are limited by federal law. At a County Council hearing Thursday to discuss towing and other consumer issues, county officials said too much towing can be a problem for local businesses.