Governor Signs Senate Bill 116 Sponsored by Attorney General and Senate Bill 431 Sponsored by Senator Avel Gordly
Attorney General Hardy Myers today applauded the Oregon Legislature for passing legislation prohibiting some predatory towing tactics. Governor Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 116 and Senate Bill 431 into law this morning.
"Oregonians are tired of getting gouged by towers," said Myers. "Now, towers will be held accountable for failing to disclose the cost of the tow or preying on vehicle owners who unknowingly or mistakenly park in the wrong space due to unclear signage."
Senate Bill 116 was sponsored by Myers for the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) to strengthen the disclosure requirements regarding cost, location, hours of operation and other important information, as well as curbing some predatory towing practices.
Towing is a largely unregulated industry in Oregon. Currently, there is no statewide consumer protection authority to handle many of the complaints received about the towing industry. Common complaints include problems identifying the location and phone number of the company towing a vehicle, the lack of accurate information about the cost of the tow, and difficulties retrieving the towed vehicle from storage.
Senate Bill 116 requires that towers disclose to a vehicle owner in writing information such as: the prices charged for goods and services, location of where the vehicle will be towed or stored, contact information for the tower, and methods of payment accepted. The bill allows opportunity for personal property of an emergency nature, including credit cards and checkbooks, child safety car and booster seats, and prescription medicine, to be retrieved from the towed vehicle.
Towers are prohibited from soliciting business within 1,000 feet of a motor vehicle collision unless otherwise allowed through previously negotiated tow-auto service club agreements, or parking within 1,000 feet of a parking facility to monitor for potential business. Some exceptions apply, including instances in which posted signs clearly state the hours that the parking facility is monitored.
The Attorney General is authorized by SB 116 to enforce most provisions under the state's Unlawful Trade Practices Act, in which civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation can be pursued in state court.
Senate Bill 116 is the result of a work group convened by DOJ that included legislators, representatives of the towing and insurance industries, the City of Portland, law enforcement, and transportation agencies to obtain consensus. All work group members supported the bill's passage.
Another towing bill signed into law today is Senate Bill 431 which was sponsored by Senator Avel Gordly (I-Portland). SB 431 requires landlords, who want a vehicle removed from the premises without notice to the owner, to have a written tenant agreement that includes the use of parking stickers and describes rules concerning guest parking. Landlords also must display signs that include contact information for any hired towing company. It also prohibits the landlord from towing an inoperable vehicle without 72-hour prior notice.
Senate Bills 116 and 431 are considered part of a larger package of consumer protection bills passed by the Legislature this session, most of which have already been signed into law.
Myers reflecting on the success of the package said, "I am proud, and Oregonians can be, too, of the work we accomplished this session to strengthen the rights of consumers."
Copies of Senate Bills 116 and 431 can be found at www.leg.state.or.us.
Stephanie Soden, (503) 378-6002