DENVER (CBS4)– At 4 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Benjamin Dermer’s tow nightmare began.
“I woke up and my car was gone. Nobody answered the phone at the towing company or the building because it was Thanksgiving.
He is among dozens of people who testified Thursday at the state Capitol in support of a bill to prevent predatory towing practices.
Dermer says he was parked in a handicapped spot with a temporary sign he received after knee surgery. He discovered the sign had fallen when he saw a photo of the tow truck driver showing it on the ground. He wasn’t able to get his car back until the next day, after paying $375.
“My crutches were in the trunk of my car and all the food I had prepared for Thanksgiving was in the trunk of my car.”
His Thanksgiving was ruined, but attorney Zach Neuman says towing companies have also ruined lives: “People are losing their jobs because of it, they’re missing rent, they’re taking out payday loans, they’re borrowing from their family, they pull out credit cards.”
Neuman also supports the bill that would, among other things, require companies to give car owners 24 hours notice before towing their vehicle.
Currently, a company can hold your car for two days before notifying you, even if the charges are accumulating, and sell your car within 30 days if you can’t pay in full.
Representatives Edie Hooton and Naquetta Ricks are the sponsors of the bill, which Hooton says will also limit when a car can be towed. the towing company.
The bill would prevent businesses from towing cars for enforcement issues such as expiring registration, prevent them from selling vehicles and require them to return a car even if the owner cannot pay in full.
“Frankly, that’s just not practical,” says Trevor Forbes, CEO of Wyatts Towing.
He says many of the vehicles they sell are abandoned, “To say you can never sell an abandoned vehicle, ever, is unreasonable.”
He also doesn’t say he releases a car without being paid first: “The person didn’t want to be towed, they got towed because they were parked where they weren’t supposed to, so the idea that people will pay later is not reasonable.”
Forbes says it’s open to changes, like capping fees and giving 24 hours’ notice, but says the bill goes too far.
Dermer says he had to agree not to sue to get his car back. While the Public Utilities Commission oversees towing companies, most people are unaware that they can file a complaint with the PUC. Under the bill, the attorney general’s office would investigate complaints.
After several hours of testimony, the House Commerce and Labor Committee postponed a vote on the bill until next week.