REDWOOD CITY — Two South San Francisco towing companies accused of intentionally overcharging customers who wanted their cars back have agreed to pay $24,900 in civil penalties and restitution, a prosecutor said Thursday.
P&S Towing, which was a contractor for the California Highway Patrol, and South City Tow Inc. tacked on a "pullout" fee of roughly $100 to the bill of people or insurance companies that were picking up a car between January 2008 and February 2009, said San Mateo County deputy district attorney Chuck Finney. But that fee was illegal, and the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, along with the CHP, sued the companies, attorneys said.
The businesses, which have separate owners but operate out of the same facility, settled the suit Thursday but have not admitted wrongdoing, attorneys said. They will have to shell out $4,900 in restitution to customers and pay $20,000 in civil penalties.
"It's just an attempt to get around a provision that was established by the CHP for the benefit of the public," Finney said. "That was a violation."
The fee was apparently to cover the cost of transporting a vehicle from the back to the entrance of the companies' storage yard in San Bruno, Finney said. But that kind of charge is prohibited by South San Francisco city rules and the towing agreement P&S had with the CHP, according to court documents. Authorities began investigating the companies after a tow-truck
driver who picked up a car at the lot complained to police that the fee might be illegal.
South City Tow's attorney, Geoffrey Rotwein, said his clients were not being dishonest; there was simply a misunderstanding about what fees could be charged. He said the affected clients have gotten their money back.
"There is no evidence of dishonesty," he said. "It was a business decision that turned out not to be correct."
P&S Towing's attorney, William McLaughlin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
South San Francisco Towing Cos. Shell Out $24,900 To Settle Lawsuit
Here's the story from www.insidebayarea.com:
Posted by Cyndi Kight, Associate Editor of Towing & Recovery Footnotes at 1:12 PM