The Montgomery County Department of Consumer Protection is reviewing whether tow truck companies are violating the law by refusing to offer cash change to customers.
County officials received a formal complaint from a Silver Spring man whose car was towed in May.
This complaint is one of more than 200 recent complaints against D.C.-area towing companies since 2017. It’s an industry in which complaints are frequently submitted by drivers whose cars are removed.
At least two Montgomery County tow companies had policies prohibiting customers from receiving cash change if those customers pay cash to retrieve their cars.
“There’s a question as to whether or not that’s illegal, because the law provides that (tow companies) are not able to collect more than the maximum tow rates set by Montgomery County government,” Montgomery County Department of Consumer Protection Director Eric Friedman said.
The county limits the amount customers can be charged for a tow.
“It’s very likely that could be considered overcharging by the (tow) store, because that may in fact be overcharging by the tower,” Friedman said.
Two county towing operations have posted signs prohibiting the return of cash change to customers. Prestige Towing, near Shady Grove Road in Gaithersburg, said it banned cash change partly to prevent employees from stealing the cash. The owner said he would change his policy after receiving questions about it from the News4 I-Team.
The owner of Henry’s Towing in Silver Spring said he prohibits cash change to prevent robberies at his tow lot. Fred Scheler said robbery has been a problem at other lots.
“I’ve had 10 other locations,” Scheler said. “Those other locations have all been held up and robbed. By having the customer give us exact change, the change is immediately dropped into a safe that they can’t open. We have not had robberies since then.”
Scheler said his Virginia locations keep cash on hand, because local Virginia law requires it. He said Montgomery County’s law does not.
Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, shot by Jeff Piper and Steve Jones, and edited by Jeff Piper.