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Office of Consumer Protection

June 16, 2015

NEWS RELEASE

OCP Director Eric Friedman encourages consumers to submit written testimony to support the County Executive's recommendations to stop overly aggressive and "predatory" towing.  Written testimony can be submitted to the County Council by email to:  county.council@montgomerycountymd.gov

The deadline for submitting written testimony is Wednesday, June 24, 2015.  Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m.   For information regarding the County Executive's recommendations, please read the news release below.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett today submitted amendments to the County Council in an effort to enhance Bill # 17-15, Motor Vehicle Towing and Immobilization on Private Property, introduced by Councilmember Roger Berliner on April 14.

The legislation and proposed amendments would change Montgomery County’s current towing law in an effort to curb overly aggressive towing practices in shopping centers and residential parking areas and to align Montgomery County’s law with the recently-enacted statewide towing law.

The County Executive’s Office, County Council and Office of Consumer Protection have received an increasing number of complaints from consumers in Montgomery County regarding behavior by some towing firms which appears to be overly aggressive and “predatory” in nature. Such activity, which has been widely reported in national and local news media, appears to violate the intent of Montgomery County’s 25-year-old towing law.

“Unfair and abusive towing practices ultimately hurt businesses in our urban districts and discourage residents from doing business and living in Montgomery County,” said Leggett. “Our law needs to ensure that there is balance and civility with our parking restrictions and towing.”

Consumer Protection Director Eric Friedman will testify tonight on behalf of the County Executive on these proposed amendments. The hearing for Bill # 17-15 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Council Office Building, Third Floor Hearing Room, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville.

In addition to the current provisions in Bill #17-15, Leggett is recommending that the following provisions be incorporated: 

  • Prohibit any charge if the consumer returns to the vehicle before towing has been completed. 
  • Require certain disclosures in the contract between the towing company and property owner to ensure that the property owner is aware of its liabilities and obligations. 
  • Modernize the property owner’s procedures for authorizing each tow by establishing documentation via fax and email. 
  • Require property owners who wish to engage in non-consensual towing to first electronically register their parking lots and provide statistical reports. 
  • Update the definition and the requirements regarding signs and photographs to align with the definitions to conform with the State towing law. 
  • Clarify that vehicle owners cannot be charged to inspect or retrieve their personal property from their vehicles. 
  • Adds definitions for commercial and residential property. 
  • Allows property owners to have a vehicle towed by placing a notice on the vehicle in lieu of posting all of the signs required by current law.

Montgomery County’s towing law, first enacted in 1988, requires all towing firms to be registered with the Office of Consumer Protection   The State of Maryland enacted a towing law in 2012. Approximately 50,000 vehicles are towed in Montgomery County each year. On average, each consumer pays approximately $160 to reclaim a vehicle that has been towed.

OCP, the County’s consumer protection agency, investigates thousands of complaints each year involving automotive sales and repairs, new home purchases, home improvements, credit issues, retail sales, Internet services and most other consumer transactions. OCP provides pre-purchase information to consumers, as well as speakers to the community on consumer issues.

For more information and consumer advice, call 240-777-3636.

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