Ontario Moves Forward on Regulating the Towing Industry

0 April 16, 2014 at 2:25 pm by

This week the Ontario government introduced Bill 189, the Roadside Assistance Protection Act, which, if passed, will finally introduce a regulatory scheme to the towing industry. This will be welcome news to consumers, insurance companies and honest towing companies.

The bill amends the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 and brings towing under the responsibility of the Minister of Consumer Services.  It comes following the establishment of stakeholder advisory groups and a public consultation process. The bill does not follow the recommendations of the Automobile Insurance Anti-Fraud Task Force, in that it does not create a new self-regulating body for the towing industry.  In the end, it was determined that the Task Force’s recommendation was not feasible.  Instead, the towing industry will fall under the responsibility of the Commercial Vehicle Operator’s Registration (CVOR) system.  The CVOR currently is responsible for large trucks and buses.  Technically the Registrar of Motor Vehicles becomes the regulator since the Registrar will have the authority to cancel a CVOR certificate.

The bill amends the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 to regulate consumer transactions involving tow and storage services. As examples, rules are provided for respecting:

  1. Disclosure of information to consumers.
  2. Requirements that tow and storage services provided to consumers be authorized.
  3. Deviating from estimated payment amounts.
  4. The provision of itemized invoices.
  5. Insurance requirements.
  6. Publication of rates.
  7. A Tow and Storage Consumers Bill of Rights.
  8. Requirements that consumers be allowed to remove personal property from towed or stored vehicles.
  9. The establishment of qualifications for tow and storage providers.

The Act is also amended to provide for the appointment of inspectors and inspection powers, and to permit the Director to establish policies regarding the interpretation, administration and enforcement of the Act. The Repair and Storage Liens Act is amended to reflect the amendments to the Consumer Protection Act, 2002.

The Highway Traffic Act is amended in two main areas: the regulation of commercial motor vehicles and tow trucks and enforcement of the Act generally by the addition of administrative penalties. In respect of commercial motor vehicles, the Act is amended as follows:

  1. To repeal the definition of “commercial motor vehicle” in subsection 16 (1) of the Act and replace it with the authority to define the term by regulation.
  2. To move other definitions related to “commercial motor vehicle” (“compensation”, “CVOR certificate”, “goods” and “safety record”) from subsection 16 (1) to subsection 1 (1), so that they apply to the whole Act and not only to sections 16 to 23.1, as currently provided.
  3. To provide for additional regulation of commercial motor vehicles. Provisions and regulation-making powers are added: prescribing requirements, qualifications and standards for commercial motor vehicles and for owners, operators and drivers of commercial motor vehicles; respecting documents and information to be carried by drivers and to be filed with the Ministry; adding grounds to refuse to issue, replace or renew a CVOR certificate; and requiring specified classes of owners and operators of commercial motor vehicles to install in their vehicles devices that are capable of recording and transmitting data about vehicle operation and driver conduct.
  4. To allow the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to order the immediate suspension or cancellation of a CVOR certificate where the Registrar has reason to believe that the certificate holder’s safety record or failure to comply with any Act demonstrates a significant risk to road safety and that it is in the public interest that the operator immediately cease operating all commercial motor vehicles.
  5. To prohibit drivers and other persons in charge of tow trucks from engaging in activities prescribed by regulation. In respect of general enforcement, the Act is amended to provide for the imposition of administrative penalties for the contravention of prescribed provisions of the Act and regulations. The amount of the penalties may not exceed $20,000.

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