State legislators are considering a new bill that would place stricter penalties on towing companies after drivers who were forced to abandon their cars on the 15 Freeway last week received high towing bills.
The proposed legislation would target tow companies that don’t have a service contract with the California Highway Patrol, and as a result could attempt to price gouge customers, Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) said.
Obernolte announced support for the legislation Tuesday, just days after a brush fire jumped the 15 Freeway in San Bernardino County, burning 18 cars and leaving dozens of other stranded.
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Some drivers claim they were told by the CHP that undamaged cars would be towed for free, but were billed hundreds or even thousands of dollars for towing, storage and after-hours fees.
For Obernolte and other lawmakers, the North Fire aftermath has highlighted a need to set reasonable towing rates for disaster situations.
"I was horrified that anyone would use an emergency situation like that to try and take advantage of people," Obernolte said. "We also want to make sure there are penalties for tow truck operators who do not comply with their contracts."
Bertha Diaz was forced to abandon her undamaged SUV during the North Fire, and said she was shocked to receive a $3,400 bill from Roy and Dot's Towing, one of the multiple towing companies that removed cars from the freeway.
When Diaz’s son Juan contacted the CHP about the cost, Roy and Dot's lowered the bill to $923, but like many drivers, the Diaz's said they are still frustrated with tow companies for seemingly taking advantage of the situation.
"I felt a little better, but I still felt it was price gouging," Juan Diaz said.
Roy and Dot's declined to comment on the allegations Tuesday, but an employee told NBC4 a statement would be released later this week.