Trouble with towing: Who is holding companies accountable?

CHICAGO --  After decades of complaints, an infamous towing company in Chicago is being hauled before the Illinois Commerce Commission Wednesday and threatened with losing their license.

The tactics of Lincoln Towing are being investigated and customers say state regulators haven’t done enough to curb this company. Some customers say the company will tow their vehicle and then cause damage to it.

WGN Investigates obtained records from the Illinois Commerce Commission that reveal in a seven month period the agency reviewed, it opened 166 investigations into Lincoln Towing, issued 92 citations and found 28 violations. The others were cleared.

The ICC ordered a hearing to “determine whether it is fit, willing, and able to properly perform the service of a commercial vehicle relocator.”

North Side Ald. Ameya Pawar has been battling Lincoln Towing since he took office. He says it’s common for police to get called in to mediate complaints between drivers and the tow company and says there’s a 40-year history, not just one year, that needs to be addressed.

“These issues are not one-offs, there’s a pattern and practice,” Pawar says. "They had a driver threaten to hit someone with a pipe. They had someone fall of a ladder while they were towing away their car.  He broke his leg. … Thousands of police hours have been spent in the last few years just dealing with complaints related to Lincoln Towing out of the 20th District.”

Allen Perl has been Lincoln’s lawyer for two decades. He says for a company that tows 13,000-14,000 cars a year and they’re track record is top notch.

“If I explained to you how many tows a year and how few violations we have, it’s like .0003 percent of 1 percent,” Perl told WGN Investigates. “Literally every 500 cars is a violation. That’s a pretty good record.”

WGN Investigates found the Illinois Commerce Commission revoked the license of only “one” tow operator in the state in the last decade.

Now, after outcry from the public and politicians like Pawar, the ICC is reviewing the licenses of two Chicago tow firms: Lincoln and Rendered Services.

But as we’ve seen, it’s far faster to tow a car than determine whether a towing company is fit to operate.

The Illinois Commerce Commission declined WGN’s  request for an on-camera interview. A spokesperson says these matters take time because it’s a bit like a trial.  There have been six preliminary hearings so far including arguments over evidence and procedures.

 

More information

File A Towing Complaint: https://www.icc.illinois.gov/consumer/complaint/

City of Chicago’s “Towing Bill of Rights:” https://chicago.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2688220&GUID=5210A5D8-57F7-4436-B44A-387DCD5B98A9&Options=Advanced&Search