Much has been said in the towing industry about non-consensual towing, and with good reason. Much of our emergency service world requires immediate response with no certainty that the towing company will be paid for services provided. Alongside other first responders, the tower is expected to perform essential service to allow the roadway or public right away to reopen–or returned to the condition prior to the emergency event. Unfortunately, with this lack of certainty of payment for services provided, the tower is limited to specific and particular statutes regarding how they are to conduct business and how they will be able to collect payment for services they are expected to provide.
This is where I bring about consent when applicable and appropriate. It just makes sense to receive and obtain consent for the work you are to perform, and prior to performing it. In our state of Washington, the auto repair law requires it–otherwise we are limited to $100. Providing emergency services for the highway patrol or municipality is hardly the same as performing a waterpump replacement on your pickup, however, it does make sense to receive consent just the same when applicable and appropriate.
If you have a choice to perform service with consent versus non-consent, you should choose consent. Consent is indication that the owner or their agent is authorizing you to perform this service, and hopefully combined with an understanding of your rates and a good faith estimate. Just ask yourself, if you were told that the service you were about to receive was $1000, and you signed an authorization to proceed–Don’t you think that complications will be less? Statistically speaking, anytime you make a verbal agreement with someone–the odds go down considerably that conflict will take place just because you took the time to get consent. It is not the same, but similar to the olden days when a handshake meant something. Maybe, a handshake in emergency service is a bit of a stretch, but trust me on this one that if you have a written agreement you are in much stronger ground.
Recently, I had a conversation with a prominent tower and he informed me that their state’s highway patrol frowns on them getting consent. Maybe because they want the roadway open, and not bogged down with a complicated contract signing. Understood, but there are ways around this. After all, does your state’s highway patrol assist in collecting for services in the non-consensual service environment?
Not to get legal, because I am far from an attorney–but there are federal statues that regulate and prevent price controls in consensual environments. There is considerable modifications of lien statutes that you may be able to improve upon with consent. However, I will close in saying the number one reason that you should choose consent versus non-consent prior to performing service is that it just makes sense. You sign documents regularly prior to engaging another vendor’s service, why should your towing company be any different?
I am happy to help in any way for business folks that are looking to improve and get new ideas to overcome obstacles. If you are thinking there may be a better way, there likely is–you just need to change it up a bit.