By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Her car was towed, yet she hadn’t done anything wrong! Tonight 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan comes to the aid of a woman looking to get tow truck justice.
One minute it was there, the next, it wasn’t! It was an early morning surprise Heather Lyon could have done without. She says, “We woke up from some noise outside and then looked out the window to see what was going on and realized that the car was gone.” It had vanished from a spot directly in front of her garage. According to Lyon, “We called the police to see what had gone on and they came to the house and said it wasn’t stolen it had been towed.”
Towed by Lew Blum Towing. A sign posted in front of the garage reads Unauthorized Parking Prohibited, Vehicles Will Be Towed. But that’s for people that don’t live there! Lyon’s first priority was getting the car back and it wasn’t easy. She says, “They don’t have a credit card machine that works.” So a payment was made in the form of cash, $265. Lyon says, “We were told we would get a call back from Lew Blum and that management could help figure out the situation, but that never happened. Beyond not getting a response from them, when you call, they laugh at you.”
So what are your rights when it comes to getting towed in Philadelphia? Well first, cash can be a payment option, but a tow company must accept credit and debit cards too. The fees are set by the city $175 for the tow and $25 a day for storage. And the tow truck driver must a take a photo at the scene before towing away your car.
Lew Blum’s Towing told Lyon that her car had been blocking someone else. She says, “I’m not even sure how that would be possible. But they did say they would provide proof.” When the tow company didn’t provide a photo and they failed to return Lyon’s repeated calls she reached out to 3 On Your Side.
So who called for the tow in the first place? Well that’s the million dollar question. Lew Blum told me that his dispatcher failed to write down that person’s name and phone number as company policy requires, adding that the dispatcher doesn’t work there anymore. But he also told me he would return Lyon’s money making it a 3 On Your Side problem solved. Lyon says, “I was just glad that somebody heard the story and was able to help and get this rectified”
If you believe a tow company has failed to follow the law who do you complain to? Well it depends on who you ask. The Mayor’s office tells us you should file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Attorney General and you can also take the business to small claims court. But 3-1-1 can also take your complaint and will send it over to Licenses & Inspections to investigate.