New York City (NYC) Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Defense Lawyer on Towing Operator Investigations

New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Lawyer

Has your towing company received investigation correspondence with a request for documents from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs? Such investigations often arise out of consumer complaints. An experienced NYC DCA defense lawyer can assist with the preparation of a deliberate response designed to achieve the most advantageous outcome possible in addition to ensuring compliance with applicable Administrative Code provisions and New York City Rules.

Written Authorization and Reporting Requirements

The New York City Administrative Code contains provisions pertaining to, without limitation, removal of vehicles parked in front of a private driveway and removal of vehicles improperly parked on private property. With regard to the latter, the NYC DCA is often interested in whether tow operators have express written authorization by the owner of the private property as designated in the contract between the owner of the private property and the tow operator. Such authorization is required for each vehicle removed, and must include the location, make, model, color and license plate number of the vehicle to be removed. The New York City Administrative Code mandates that the local police precinct having jurisdiction over the area from which the vehicle was removed be notified within thirty minutes of the vehicle’s arrival at a facility for storage, as to the storage site, the time the vehicle was removed, the location from which the vehicle was removed, the name of the person who authorized the removal, and the fact that the removal was pursuant to a contract with the owner of the private property. Tow operators must also obtain the name of the person at such police precinct to whom such information was reported and note such name on a trip record together with the time and date that the vehicle was removed. Additionally, the registered owner or other person in control of the vehicle shall have the right to inspect the vehicle before accepting its return. No release or waiver of any kind which would release the person or company removing the vehicle from liability for damages may be required from any such owner or other person as a condition of release of the vehicle to such person. A detailed, signed receipt showing the legal name of the person or company removing the vehicle must be given to the person paying the removal and storage charges at the time of payment.

Rules of the City of New York

The Rules of the City of New York obligated tow operators to maintain various records, including, but not limited to, records of calls for towing and record all occasions where towing service was rendered. Operators must do so by maintaining in chronological order all authorizations to tow and all towing invoices, for a period of three years. All required records shall be readily available at the operator’s premises for inspection by the Police Department and the Department of Consumer Affairs during normal business hours.

The Rules of the City of New York also state that no tow operator shall remove a vehicle from private property without first obtaining written authorization from the owner of such property or the owner’s agent who has been designated in writing to authorize such towing. The written authorization must be legible and shall include the date, time, location, make, model, color, and license plate number of the vehicle to be removed, and the name, title and signature of the person authorizing the towing. Operators shall provide the owner or operator of the towed vehicle a copy of such authorization that also includes an itemized list of the fees that may be collected for the towing and storage of a vehicle towed from the property.

Every person or entity licensed to engage in towing must maintain records in an electronic format concerning every tow performed under the authority of the following: the Directed Accident Response Program (“DARP”), the Rotation Tow Program (“ROTOW”), the Arterial Towing Program, and the authority to remove vehicles improperly parked on private property provided by section 19-169.1 of the Administrative Code.

Licensed tow operators must create an electronic folder in which it maintains electronic copies of records for each tow. Each electronic folder must be labeled with the date on which the tow was performed, and must enter the date as “YYYYMMDD.” Electronic folders must be maintained in chronological order. Each electronic folder must contain an electronic copy of each of the following documents: (i) a completed authorization to tow; (ii) a receipt for the towing services; and (iii) a copy of the credit card record of payment for the towing services, if any.

For towing service performed under the Arterial Towing Program, licensed operators must maintain an electronic copy of the completed authorization to tow required by the New York City Police Department. In addition to other records, operators must include in each electronic folder for an Arterial Towing tow a copy of the documents provided, demonstrating that the person redeeming the vehicle is its owner or the agent of the owner.

For tows that remove vehicles improperly parked on private property, operators must maintain in each electronic folder an electronic copy of the written authorization required by, without limitation, the Administrative Code of the City of New York from the owner of the property or the owner’s agent who has been designated in writing to authorize such towing.

In addition to the required records, licensed operators must include in each electronic folder for a tow from private property an electronic copy of the trip record and the signed receipt of the person paying removal and storage charges issued. A operator that performs towing services from private property must make an electronic copy of every contract with the owner of private property. The electronic copy must be labeled with the address of the private property, the name of the owner of the private property and the date of the contract.

How Can Licensed Tow Operators Protect Themselves?

If your towing company is under investigation by the New York City (NYC) Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), contact a NYC DCA consumer protection investigation and defense attorney immediately.   Do not liaise with the DCA by yourself. Often, the manner in which your case is presented to the Department of Consumer Affairs can significantly impact whether fines are assessed, the amount of such fines and potentially licensure.

If your tow company is the subject of a DCA investigation or if consumers have filed complaints against your business, time is of the essence. An experienced New York City Department of Consumer Affairs law firm with practical knowledge of the rules and a solid reputation with decision makers is an invaluable asset.

NYC DCA Defense Lawyer

When contacting a law firm, be sure to ask about specific experience and results. A knowledgeable NYC DCA attorney with experience defending and favorably resolving a wide variety of DCA investigations on behalf of New York based businesses will often be able to deduce the nature and scope of the inquiry, avoid the proliferation of other regulatory compliance inquiries, and quickly resolve Departmental investigations and allegations.

An experienced Department of Consumer Affairs defense lawyer will be able to liaise with NYC DCA staff attorneys and deliberately design a strategic response plan that also lessens the disruption to crucial business operations.

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The foregoing should be of interest to any towing company that is the subject of a NYC Department of Consumer Affairs regulatory investigation or enforcement proceeding. If you require such assistance, or if you would like to discuss the implementation of preventative compliance controls, please contact new York City (NYC) Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) lawyer Richard B. Newman at rnewman@hinchnewman.com.

Contact an NYC DCA lawyer if you or your company are being investigated by the New York Department of Consumer Affairs. 

Information conveyed in this article does not cover all rules governing tow operators. It is provided for preliminary informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor should it be relied upon, as legal advice. No person should act or rely on any information in this article without seeking the advice of an attorney regarding how best to respond to the New York Department of Consumer Affairs.

 

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