Involuntary Tows –
In Massachusetts, your car can be towed without your consent under certain circumstances. This is called an involuntary tow.
When your car is ordered towed by the police, for an accident, recovered theft, fire, etc, the owner is required to be notified of the towing and storage rates, as well as the location of the towing company, by registered mail. When they are notified, either at the time it’s towed / recovered, or by mail, in most cases, they are not being fully informed of their rights.
If a vehicle is left on private property and then towed away, its similar, the owner is required to be notified of the towing and storage rates, as well as the location of the towing company by registered mail.
In Mass, you’re protected by the MassRMV and DPU, as well as the Mass General Laws. They establish the rules that govern these particular types of tows, storage, and liens.
The drop fee
If you were not arrested, the vehicle was not unregistered, and it was not blocking any type of public street or property, generally you should be allowed to have AAA or a private tow company of your choice come tow the vehicle. You may have to pay a reduced fee to the contracted tow company for coming out, it’s usually 50% of the price of the tow hook-up. For example the cost is $108 for the tow, and $3.60 per mile after 5 miles, you’d only pay $54 for the “drop fee”.
Check the contract between the City or Town and the towing company. You can get a copy at City or Town Hall, it is a public record, they are required to give it to you. You may have to request it in writing.
The next thing you want to be aware of is the price. The rates are set by Law and the agency responsible for reviewing complaints that the towing company has overcharged you is the Mass Department of Public Utilities, or DPU.
$108 for the Tow.
$3.60 per mile after 5 miles.
The price rules for involuntary tows are found in 220 CMR 272.
$35 per 24hr period if stored in a ( SECURED ) lighted fenced in lot.
$17.50 per 24 hour period if stored in an UNSECURED lot.
And a fuel surcharge which is set each month when the average cost of diesel fuel in New England exceeds $2.622 per gallon as of 1/2018.
The Mass DPU audits towing companies holding a certificate of compliance at random. When the DPU audits a towing company, they are looking to see if the proper rates are being charged. Please compare your receipt to the rates outlined in this document to audit your own receipt.
For more information on the DPU and Involuntary Tows, see this
which further outlines the DPU position on City fees, Mail fees, Administrative fees, or others.
Filing a Complaint
If you feel you have been overcharged, you should consider filing a Civil Complaint with the Superior Court where a consumer protection complaint can bring restitution, punitive damages and attorney’s fee. The Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the DPU.
The DPU can only fine the towing company $100 for the first violation, and $200 each additional, so if you want your money back you will need to take them to Superior Court.
You can fill out the DPU Complaint form online at:
or contact the DPU Auditor diretly via email at John.x.Keenan@state.ma.us describing your situation and attach any receipts you have to the email.
If you choose to email a complaint about Valley Towing in Methuen, I suggest sending a copy to the tribune reporter who has been covering this story: KBlessing@eagletribune.com
There are several ongoing class-action lawsuits in Massachusetts Superior Courts in Suffolk, Middlesex, and Essex County. Since the lawsuit against Valley Towing is the most recently filed class action suit, it incorporates most of the other cases rulings, for example it may be a violation of the MA Consumer Protection Act if you were charged an excessive mail fee, a fee for cleaning the truck bed, any fuel surcharge fee without documentation of the fuel burning operations and the monthly fuel factor on your bill.
Your case does not belong in small claims court. These are consumer and lien cases which always go to Superior Court. If your car is being held or you feel you are being overcharged we would advise you to consult a qualified attorney to review your towing charges and complaints. The attorneys representing the Plaintiff in the case against Valley actually specialize in this area of MA Consumer Law.
Storage Lien Law
MGL chapter 255 section 25