Division of Consumer Affairs Continues Crackdown on Predatory Towing Companies; Charges Irvington-Based Towing Company with Violations in Removing Vehicles from Three Newark Parking Lots
NEWARK – The Office of the Attorney General and the State Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit against an Irvington-based towing company, alleging that it illegally used spotters to target vehicles and failed to provide proper notice to motorists in the parking lots it patrolled.
The state's lawsuit alleges that Gilliam Towing, and its owner Marlin Gilliam, violated the Predatory Towing Prevention Act and regulations, as well as the Consumer Fraud Act, when towing vehicles from three private parking lots located at 25-33 Court Street, 80 Court Street, and 127 Halsey Street, all in Newark. The state's Complaint was filed in State Superior Court in Newark.
"We allege that this towing company engaged in precisely those predatory towing practices that our laws prohibit," said Attorney General Paula T. Dow. "Through unlawful surveillance and inadequate signage, this company watched and waited for unsuspecting motorists. Through this action and our ongoing initiative, every tower is on notice that this conduct will not be tolerated."
The state is consumer restitution, plus assessment of civil penalties against the defendants, reimbursement of the state's investigative and legal costs, and compliance with the Predatory Towing Prevention Act and the Consumer Fraud Act.
"The defendants are charged with essentially turning these private parking lots into their own personal feeding grounds, prowling for vehicles and reaping towing fees," said Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. "With this initiative, our investigators are out on the streets fighting back. Those towing companies lying in wait, looking to prey on unsuspecting consumers, should think twice before pouncing. We're watching."
Calcagni noted that this is the fourth towing company against which the Division has taken action since March, when the Division first went public with the statewide crackdown. "Investigations, including undercover operations, into additional towing companies and their practices continue," said Calcagni.
Consumers should know the law. The Predatory Towing Prevention Act prohibits towing companies from the following:
• Failing to release a vehicle that has been hooked or lifted, but has not actually removed from private property, upon request of the vehicle's owner;
• Trolling (cruising) for vehicles parked without authorization;
• Paying for information about vehicles parked without authorization;
• Refusing to accept an insurance company check or a debit card, charge card, credit card, or check for towing or storage services, if the towing company ordinarily accepts such payment at its place of business;
• Charging for a towing or storage service not on the Division's schedule of services; and
• Charging an unreasonable or excessive fee.
A consumer education brief that highlights these and other key features of the Predatory Towing Prevention Act has been produced by the Division of Consumer Affairs and can be read online at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/brief/towing.pdf
Consumers who believe their vehicles have been illegally towed from private parking lots should file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs. To file a complaint, go to www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov, or call 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Koziar in the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section is representing the Division of Consumer Affairs.