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What is the status of existing municipal towing ordinances during year or so before the law becomes effective?

Municipal ordinances requiring registration of towing companies may remain in effect until October 18, 2008 (360 days from enactment).

Some provisions in law pre-empt certain municipal procedures but an uncertainty is presented by sections 10 and 23.  Section 10 permits towing company to charge lesser of charges established by municipal ordinance adopted pursuant to C. 40:48-2.49. However, 40:48-2.49 seemingly is reduced to nothing by amendment that states, in effect "Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize a municipality to establish charges for services that are not included in the schedule of towing and service charges for which a towing company may charge a service fee established by the Director of Consumer Affairs....? 

The cited amendatory language speaks to the services for which a tower may charge consumers, not to the ability of a municipality to establish a fee schedule.  Section 8 requires the Director of Consumer Affairs to establish a schedule of services for which a towing company may charge, specifying basic services and those services that are ancillary to and part of basic towing services and for which no additional fees may be charged.  Section 23 provides that a municipality may not establish charges for services for which, pursuant to the regulations adopted by the Director, no fees may be charged.  Municipal ordinances establishing fees for the removal of motor vehicles from private or public property pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2.49 are unaffected by the Predatory Towing Prevention Act (Section 10f) insofar as the services are included in the schedule as services for which a fee may be charged.  The amendment simply clarifies that a municipal fee schedule cannot authorize towers to charge a fee for a service that has not been specified in the schedule of services established by the Director of Consumer Affairs.  So, for example, if the service schedule does not include “vehicle hook-up” as a separate service (because that is subsumed within the basic towing service), a municipal fee schedule cannot set a fee that a tower may charge for that service.  The municipal fee schedule can reflect that component as part of the basic towing service fee, however.

Some highlighted provisions of A-4053:

  • Municipality preempted from requiring or issuing any registration or license of any towing company. (Sec. 14a…p10) (effective as of October 18, 2008).
  • Municipality is not authorized to establish charges for towing services that, under the schedule adopted by the Director, are considered ancillary to basic services for which no fee may be charged. (Sec. 23 d….p16).
  • Permits towing company to charge lesser of charges established by municipal ordinance or by contract. (Sec. 10f).

Municipality Not Precluded From:

  • Requiring additional/higher liability insurance coverage with respect to contractual agreement with towing company. (Sec. 6c … p6)
  • Establishing contract rates (fees established under a contract) for towing and storage services as part of contractual agreement with towing company. (Sec. 8d    p8)
  • Under existing authority, municipality can license & collect general non-discriminatory tax upon all businesses; or
  • Impose additional requirements/conditions as part of a contractual agreement with towing company. (Sec. 14a  para. 1&2….p10)

 Director of Division of Consumer Affairs:

  • Prescribes registration form, sets registration fee sufficient to defray administrative expenses, provides decals to be placed on towing vehicle. (Sec 4a&b    p3; sec 10a)
  • Through regulation, establishes schedule of towing and storage services for which towing company may charge service fee, specifying services that are ancillary for which no additional fee may be charged. (Sec.8   p7)
  • Specifies services included as part of basic towing services for which no fee is charged.
  • Provides Internet website database into which towers enter tariffs setting forth their charges for nonconsensual towing services, which data enables consumer to review fee charged for each towing service by each registered towing company in the State.
  • May suspend/revoke registration for reasons listed in bill. (Sec.5a p4)
  • May by regulation establish a registration term other than on an annual basis.

Towing Company 

  • Shall not engage in towing unless registered with Division of Consumer Affairs
  • Shall apply for registration on annual basis (or such other time frame as may be established by the director by regulation), accompanied by fee as set by Director.
  • Shall not tow vehicle from private property without consent of the owner of the vehicle unless the towing company is registered with the Division and signs are posted on the private property warning that unauthorized vehicles will be towed and which identify the company that will provide the towing. (Sec 7)
  • Shall maintain liability insurance which meets/exceeds such amount as determined by Director through regulation.
  • Shall file with Division a list of services provided and fee charged for each nonconsensual towing service.
  • Fee for a particular nonconsensual towing service is presumed excessive if it exceeds 150% (or a different percentage established by the Director) of the average fee for that service charged in the county of the towing company’s location.

REPEALED:
C.39:3-84.9….The system of licensure of tow companies by Director (p14 of bill).
C.40:48-2.55…Model Schedule of towing, storage services for which municipality and county may charge fee.
C.56:8-2.26…..Charging of discriminatory or unusual rates for towing services.

 

 

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