Oregon Attorney General Sues Retriever Towing Over Illegal Tows

January 17, 2023
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The Oregon Department of Justice Consumer Protection Section filed a lawsuit today against Retriever Towing, one of the largest towing operations in Oregon. The lawsuit alleges the company illegally towed vehicles from parking facilities without signed authorization from the owner of the parking facility.

In 2017, the Oregon legislature passed towing reforms that prohibit towing vehicles from parking facilities (with limited exceptions like blocking an emergency vehicle) unless the towing company received signed authorization to tow the specific vehicle from the owner of the parking facility or the owner’s agent. Retriever Towing contracts with property owners and property management companies who manage parking facilities and charges fees to the owner of the towed vehicle or sells the vehicle at auction. Oregon DOJ opened an investigation in 2018 into allegations that the company was not complying with Oregon law. At the time, the company promised to make reforms, but never did.

A copy of the lawsuit filed in Multnomah Circuit Court can be found here.

“The purpose of the 2017 towing reforms was to put an end to predatory towing practices that cost consumers hundreds of dollars just to recover their car,” said Attorney General Rosenblum. “Retriever told us it was reforming its business practice, but it never did. We hope this lawsuit will send a message to all towing companies around the state that they’ll be held accountable for violating the law.”

Since the 2018 law went into effect,  Oregon DOJ has received 261 complaints against Retriever Towing. Over the last 20 years, approximately one quarter of all consumer complaints received by Oregon DOJ related to towing concern Retriever Towing’s practices.

Oregon’s Towing Law:

By requiring signed authorization for a private property tow, Oregon’s 2018 law prohibited the practice of towing cars for relatively minor parking violations (like back-in parking next to an apartment building) unless the property owner or its agent was willing to authorize the tow.

Details of the law include:

  • Since Jan. 1, 2018, a tower needs to get signed authorization from the owner of the parking lot before towing the vehicle. The tower needs to keep a copy of the signed authorization for at least two years and provide a copy upon request at no additional charge.
  • The tow truck operator must also take a picture of your vehicle to show how it was parked in violation of a prohibition posted on a sign at the lot.
  • Unless the tow truck operator is towing your vehicle for a road service company, they may not attempt to solicit your business at the scene of an accident.
  • If you are present at the time of the tow and the hookup is not complete, the tower must release the vehicle at no charge. If the hookup is complete, they may charge a hookup fee, but not the price of a tow.
  • If the towing company accepts cash, you will get exact change no later than the end of the next business day. (Not all towers carry sufficient change in their trucks.)

Consumers who have information about Retriever’s towing practices or want to make a consumer complaint can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at www.OregonConsumer.gov or at 1-877-877-9392.