New Jersey’s attorney general is taking aim at towing companies that engage in so-called predatory towing, and has filed a lawsuit against several businesses.
After an investigation conducted by the state Division of Consumer Affairs, the state sued PPM Towing and settled with two other companies.
Acting Director Tom Calcagni said the companies used spotters to alert tow trucks of possible parking violators.
The towing companies then demanded cash on the spot, anywhere from $150 to $300 at a time.
"It's against the law,” said Calcagni. “They’re creating a desperate situation by holding the car hostage and demanding ransom money for the release of the car."
Calcagni said drivers were often parked for just minutes before the tow trucks appeared. In one instance, he said, within 20 seconds of a motorist leaving the car, the tow truck was there and had the car on the hook.
“Even if the consumer was wrongly parked in that area,” Calcagni said, "that doesn't give the parking lot owner or the towing company the right to run roughshod over the consumer's rights."
Cheryl Fodor said she parked her car in a lot on Morris Avenue in Union, N.J., to pick something up at a local grocer. Within minutes, she returned to her car only to see it gone.
"It was unbelievable -- it felt like the twilight zone. Your car is just not gone like that."
She said a man approached her in the lot, while she was still confused about where her car was, and told her that it had been towed.
She would have to cough up nearly $300 in cash in order to get her car back. Fodor found this particularly frustrating because she said there were no signs telling her she could not park there.
"It is supposed to say where the car would be towed to, how much money it would be and the hours that you're not allowed to park and whose lot it is. This was not present, if it had been I would not have parked in this lot."
Fodor filed a report with the consumer affairs division and was able to settle with the company.
According to the attorney general’s office, the state has received at least 30 complaints against PPM Towing.
An attorney representing PPM Towing said the charges were unfounded and that they plan to fight the lawsuit.