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Enforcement of state’s new towing laws concerning as illegal tows continue

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Rashaina Maker no longer has a car, accusing Bugs Towing of illegally towing her car. But the company claims it didn’t do anything wrong.

In June, Maker walked out of her grandmother’s apartment to find her car gone. The previous two days, she was trying to get her car to start after her key fob broke. She said she told the property manager about her situation and got permission to keep her car at the apartment complex until a locksmith arrived. Bugs Towing disputes this claim, saying she was told multiple times to leave the property before they towed it away.

“I work every day and work hard to take care of my children and to have this happen to me, it wasn't fair,” Maker said.

The Colorado legislature passed new towing laws last year that went into effect in August 2022. The new law introduced new rules for towing companies regarding non-consensual tows. According to Maker, Bugs Towing violated a number of provisions in this new law.

According to House Bill 23-1314, towing companies must give a “24-hour written notice” before non-consensual tows. Maker claims this didn’t happen. In fact, she took a picture of her vehicle to send to the locksmith less than 24 hours before her car was towed — there was no notice on the car. Bugs Towing claims it doesn’t need to give a written notice and that Maker received verbal notices multiple times.

When Maker went to Bugs Towing to retrieve her items from inside her car, including tools and a handgun. She said the company refused — another violation of the state’s new towing laws, which says that if the owner of the vehicle wants to retrieve items from their towed vehicle, the towing company must comply. Bugs Towing said Maker was verbally abusive during the interaction and didn’t feel comfortable letting her retrieve a handgun without police present.

“All my tools were in my car, everything, every bit of it was in there, but my tools were probably worth more than my car itself,” Maker said. “That's what I really wanted to get.”

Maker said Bugs Towing then failed to provide her vehicle when she agreed to pay the maximum down payment according to state law. The owner of Bugs Towing said he is willing to use payment plans with customers “who can pay it.”

“The towing carrier shall immediately retrieve a vehicle that has been nonconsensually towed or allow the owner to retrieve the vehicle if the owner pays fifteen percent of the fees, not to exceed $60, owed to the towing carrier for the non-consensual tow,” the law states.

Maker agreed to pay $60 and set up a payment plan for the rest of the fees. However, Maker said Bugs Towing wouldn’t accept her bank records and said she must pay the complete fee within 24 hours. Bugs Towing denies these allegations.

Maker has now been without a car for two months and is required to take public transportation for errands and her three children’s activities.

“I was mostly concerned about my kids,” Maker said. “How am I going to get them to their appointments? I got to go to child care, dentist, and vision. How am I going to get to my stuff? How is it going to work taking three children on the city bus? It can be done, but it's really hard.”

Despite the new towing laws going into effect more than a year ago, the Public Utilities Commission, which oversees towing companies throughout the state, is still holding public comment hearings on how to revise its towing carrier rules based on the new state law.

“We want our rules to mirror the legislation and the requirements and make sure we're being super clear to the industry we regulate and protecting consumers,” said Rebecca White, the director of the PUC.

“We want to try to place our feet in the shoes of the consumer and say, ‘Okay, what are all the circumstances that could happen as we enforce this bill?’ We have to make sure that our rulemaking is black and white,” White said.

Although PUC’s rules haven’t been updated, the agency still enforces the new state law. It said it has received quadruple the complaints since the law went into effect.

Maker filed a complaint with the PUC after she couldn’t get her car from Bugs Towing. On Thursday, a state regulation judge sustained the complaint and ordered Bugs Towing to return Maker’s car, because Bugs Towing failed to respond to Maker’s complaint within 20 days.

Bugs Towing said it wasn’t aware of the deadline and was preparing to dispute Maker’s allegations in an October hearing.

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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