|NEWARK – The Office of the Attorney General and State Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit against a Middlesex County-based towing company that allegedly charged excessive towing fees when removing vehicles from private parking lots, exceeding the fees charged by area towing companies by an average of 76%.
The State’s five-count Complaint, filed in State Superior Court in New Brunswick, alleges that Scott Flowers’ Towing, also known as Scott’s Towing, committed multiple violations of the Predatory Towing Prevention Act and Regulations and also a violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. Scott Flowers, 52, of Woodbridge is the owner/operator of the company.
Acting on a consumer complaint filed in mid-2012, Consumer Affairs launched an investigation of the business practices of Scott’s Towing at three residential parking lots in Woodbridge. Investigators found allegedly inadequate signage that did not fully disclose required information to consumers about non-consensual towing. Scott’s Towing also misrepresented the amount of its towing fees on its signage, as the company actually charged consumers higher amounts.
The company also allegedly did not have contracts to service two of the three parking lots as legally required and also allegedly charged storage for two days when vehicles were in its possession for less than one day.
“Open season on motorists by predatory towers is over. We will find those towers who prey on motorists and make a quick, illegal profit and we will hold them accountable for their actions,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
The State alleges that Scott’s Towing since at least January 2012 conducted towing at the following private properties in Woodbridge: Sharon Gardens Condominiums, Woodbridge Center Drive; Peach Street Condominiums, Rt. 35 at Woodbine Ave.; and Hirams Community, 1120 Rt. 1. Scott’s Towing did not have written contracts to provide towing services at Peach Street Condominiums and Hirams Community. The company towed at least 29 vehicles from these three lots in 2012.
The Predatory Towing Prevention Act states that towing fees are considered excessive “if they exceed by more than 50 percent, or a different percentage established by the director by regulation, the usual and customary fee charged for such nonconsensual towing or related storage service by other towing companies or storage facilities operating in the municipality.”
Consumer Affairs investigators found that Scott’s Towing charged motorists a $195 towing fee versus the $111 average towing fee charged by five other local towing companies.
“We’re seeking the return of the excessive fees paid by the consumers whose vehicles were towed, as well as the imposition of civil penalties against the defendant,” said Eric T. Kanefsky, Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. “In the end, rogue towers stand to lose far more money than they can ever hope to gain by violating our predatory towing law.”
A consumer education brief that highlights the key features of the Predatory Towing Prevention Act, which was enacted in April 2009, has been produced by the Division of Consumer Affairs and can be read online at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/brief/towing.pdf.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Koziar in the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section is representing the State in this action. Investigator Michael Bruch in the Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
Follow the Division of Consumer Affairs on Facebook , and nd check our online calendar of upcoming Consumer Outreach events.