Karl Faller of Boston has filed a class action lawsuit against Action Emergency Management Services, claiming to be a victim of predatory towing.
On July 3, Faller’s car was towed by Action from a parking lot in Malden to the company’s lot at 1087 Broadway in Revere. When Faller went to pick up his car on July 24, he was given an invoice for $1,222 which needed to be paid in full before the vehicle could be released.
“The invoice included unlawful charges, including a one-hour pre-tow recovery fee of $108, a relocation fee for moving the car within Action’s own lot of $108 and a certified mail fee of $75,” said Attorney Joshua Gardner, counsel for Faller, in his Complaint, which was filed on November 12 in Suffolk Superior Court.
Action later admitted that the pre-tow and relocation fees were illegal. However, Faller still paid $70 in storage fees and $75 for the certified letter before his car was released on July 26.
Gardner maintained that under state statute, a towing company can only charge for the “removal and storage” of a vehicle. In addition, he said towing fees are determined by the Department of Public Utilities and that storage fees cannot exceed $35 per day. Should a towing company fail to comply with the statute, the company is obligated to release the vehicle without “assessing any charges for its removal or storage.”
The Complaint also represents drivers who were victims of predatory towing during the past four years. “We brought this case as a class action on behalf of other drivers who Action charged for things like moving the car within their own lot and sending letters,” said Gardner. “One of the best ways to end these practices is through class actions such as this.”
Action is now being sued for treble damages and for $50,000 for allegedly violating the Consumer Protection Act.
“It seems like everyone has a story of a run-in with a tow truck. When your car gets towed, everything else grinds to a halt,” said Deidre Cummings, program director at MASSPIRG, a non-profit consumer advocacy group in Boston. “Not only have you lost your primary mode of transportation, but you’re also trying to locate your vehicle and you’re worrying about mounting daily storage fees. It’s essential to know whether you’re being treated fairly or whether the tow company is acting in a predatory fashion.”
Attorney Edward Manchur, counsel for Action, said the Complaint is “meritless.”
“Action intends to defend the matter vigorously,” he said. “Mr. Faller did not pay two of the fees he complains about and therefore has no standing to pursue an action based on those fees.”
Manchur also said the company operated within the confines of the law.
“Action charged Mr. Faller storage fees at a lawful rate per day, which is permitted by a governing statute and regulations,” he said.
A judgment is expected to be rendered by November 13, 2023.