Automotive

Published on December 9th, 2014 | by Elliott Silverstein

Bill 15 has passed. What’s next for motorists and the towing industry?

Over the past few months, we have focused our attention several times on the regulation of the towing industry in Ontario. Earlier this summer, we posted two blogs; one looking at whether consumers can turn down the first tow truck on scene, the other examining the introduction of Bill 15.

On November 20, MPPs at Queen’s Park passed Bill 15, also known as the “Fighting Fraud and Reducing Automobile Insurance Rates Act”. The Bill quickly received Royal Assent putting the legislation into law. As the title of the Bill suggests, while Bill 15 consolidated two previous pieces of legislation around auto insurance reforms and regulation of the towing industry, the main emphasis of the Bill was to assist the provincial government in reaching its average 15% reduction in auto insurance rates for motorists by August 2015.

The changes enabled through Bill 15 are projected to reduce claim costs for insurers through changes to Ontario’s auto insurance dispute resolution system, and reducing the current 60-day period that a vehicle can be stored after a collision. Through these and other measures, it is intended that it will help reduce auto insurance rates for drivers.

While the majority of the discussion around Bill 15 has focused on efforts to reduce auto insurance rates, the pending changes to the towing industry in Ontario are equally important not just for towing operators but all motorists across the province, and it is important for motorists to understand their current and future rights when using a towing service.

A vehicle breakdown or collision can be a very traumatic and stressful time for motorists. While the priority is to get to safety, motorists are often in a vulnerable state while sorting through the situation. The elements found in Bill 15 are designed to help protect consumers, and ensure they aren’t being charged excessively in these situations.

From a consumer’s perspective, the Bill paves the way for the following changes:

  • The creation of a Tow and Storage Consumer’s Bill of Rights
  • Requiring permission from a consumer (or permission from someone acting on the consumer’s behalf) before towing and storage services are charged
  • Enabling motorists to pay for services electronically (credit card)
  • Providing consumers access their vehicle to remove personal contents
  • Requiring an itemized invoice be provided, listing services provided, along with the total cost

Although Bill 15 has become law, the legislation itself is designed as a framework, effectively setting parameters for what regulation of the towing industry will look like. While components like itemized billing and electronic payment methods will be mandatory in the future, along with training and including tow trucks under the province’s Commercial Vehicle Operating Registration (CVOR), much of the structure of these changes will still be subject to government consultations followed by regulations being established and instituted in the coming months.

CAA has been an active participant in discussions around towing regulation with government and industry stakeholders for an extended period of time. In fact, CAA has been addressing the subject from two unique positions – as an advocate for our Members/Ontario motorists, along with being an auto club that actively works with towing industry operators/companies.

While many motorists may be eager to see these changes come into effect immediately, the consultation process will enable the government and stakeholders to have the necessary discussions to ensure that any changes to existing processes are not excessively impacting the industry or motorists. CAA believes that this next round of consultations is an important step to ensure that any changes do not impose undue financial burden or adversely affect the towing industry, and ensure that services are available for motorists when needed.

While the reforms passed in Bill 15 will benefit motorists who require towing services following a collision, CAA recognizes the important role that tow trucks have on Ontario’s roads, and we continue to advocate for both training standards and increased safety protection for those working in the industry and those receiving service. The CVOR structure must coincide with the realities of how towing services are delivered in Ontario, and CAA looks forward to discussing this issue with government representatives in the near future.

For CAA, our perspective remains the same. As Ontario embarks on provincial regulation of the towing industry, the end goal should include at a minimum, a towing industry that is able to safely provide service on Ontario’s roads, consumers that have added protection to prevent fraud from occurring, and for the towing industry to continue providing an important service to Ontarians.

We are eager to meet with government representatives to share, at a minimum, our expertise in formulating an effective training and safety model for tow truck operators, and ensure consumer protection measures are in place for motorists. CAA recognizes that while it is vital for consumers to be protected on Ontario’s roads, the way in which these regulations are implemented must ensure that the towing industry is able to continue operating in a manner to help service its clients – Ontario motorists.

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