Birmingham council set to fight "predatory towing"

Birmingham council set to fight "predatory towing"

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Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video
One business even posted a sign warning customers about the towing. Source: WBRC video One business even posted a sign warning customers about the towing. Source: WBRC video
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Towing is a common scene these days in Birmingham's Five Points South and Lakeview District.

Andy Compton can attest to it.

"When we called they said $300 cash and that was it," said Compton.

His car was towed when he parked after hours in the Chik-Fil-A parking lot.

"They were towing between 15 to 20 minutes. They would wait for people to leave and then just take them," said Compton.

When asked if a certain towing company in the area was price gauging, Birmingham City Councilman Jonathan Austin replied "absolutely."

According to Austin the towing problem has increased in the Lakeview district within the last month.

"I have emails, all that, that people are complaining about these different companies and the name of the company is Parking Enforcement Systems," said Austin.

There are even signs on businesses like Al's warning customers about one company's, Parking Enforcement Systems, costly tow fee of $285, plus an extra $25 per day your car is held in their lot.

"We need to make it fair to the customers. The parking lot owners, yes, have a right to tow off their property, otherwise but they don't have a right to deceive the public and letting them look like it's just an open parking lot that anyone can park in because the business is closed," said Austin.

And those high fees? There's currently no price cap on towing in the city of Birmingham.

Six area tow companies were called to get the average price to tow a vehicle from private property. They all charged a private property tow cost ranging from $100-$$150.

We even talked to a company in Sumiton. For them to drive to Birmingham and tow your car it will cost you $150.

We asked the owner of Parking Enforcement Systems about their charges. The owner told us, "We're not the only ones that charge that."

The owner wouldn't give his name or much information, telling us it's in his contract to not talk to the media.

But he did say his company has been towing legally for the past nine years they've been in business.

"People charge different things for different things all over the U.S.," said the owner.

Parking Enforcement System only deals in cash, so why no credit card or checks?

"It's $25 to stop a payment on a check because this is non-consensual towing. If you pay by credit card once we swipe your credit card and say hey, I didn't give them permission to tow my car and we're out the money," said the owner.

But that answer doesn't sit well with councilman Austin or Andy Compton who's now out $300.

Austin said an ordinance he has been working on for more than a year would require a cap on the towing for the city. It would also require businesses to have permanent blockers so people wouldn't be able to park in their lot as well as an attendant.

This ordinance will be brought up in a meeting on August 1.

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