Press Release

Attorney General Shapiro Holds Philadelphia Tow Truck Operator Accountable for Illegally Towing Cars

March 19, 2018 | Topic: Consumers

Attorney General’s Legal Action Getting Full Restitution for 28 Consumers who Filed Complaints

HARRISBURG — At a press conference today in Southwest Philadelphia, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced his Bureau of Consumer Protection is settling a case against a Philadelphia tow company after an investigation that found cars were illegally towed from various locations throughout the city.

George Smith Towing, of South 61st Street in Philadelphia, and owner Anthony D’Angelo, violated Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, the Towing and Towing Storage Facility Standards Act, and Philadelphia’s towing ordinance, according to the Bureau of Consumer Protection investigation. The settlement resolves the case and obtains full restitution for 28 consumers who filed complaints after being towed.

“Parking in the city is hard enough without the threat of your car being illegally towed,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “This settlement is about protecting consumers from illegal conduct – and getting them restitution. We’ll fight for every consumer who files a complaint with our office.  In this case, we’re getting each consumer full restitution after their cars were wrongly towed – $205 apiece.”

In 2017, the Bureau of Consumer Protection returned $19 million to the Commonwealth and saved Pennsylvanians who contacted the Bureau $3 million – an average savings of $134.38 per consumer. The Bureau of Consumer Protection received 21,942 complaints in 2017.

At the press conference, one consumer – who was towed from a North Philadelphia lot after being parked for only 10 minutes – told her story. She said she did not see any signs warning consumers of the risk of being towed. When she attempted to retrieve her car from George Smith Towing, a worker at the lot informed her that the credit card machine was “broken” and she would have to pay in cash.

“I was outraged when I learned my car had been towed after being parked only 10 minutes,” said Meredith Cohen, a Temple University student whose car was towed last October. “I thought there was no way to ever get my money back. But Attorney General Shapiro held this business accountable. I’m grateful his Bureau of Consumer Protection was able to get me a full refund.”

The Bureau of Consumer Protection investigation revealed that in some instances, George Smith Towing and its owner:

  • Failed to accept credit cards
  • Towed vehicles where signs were not clearly displayed
  • Did not notify police prior to towing a vehicle
  • Failed to take and maintain photographs of the violation prior to towing a vehicle
  • Charged vehicle owners more than the lawful amount
  • Towed vehicles that were not illegally parked from public streets, and
  • Failed to obtain written permission from property owners prior to towing from, or in front of, the owner’s property.

Under the $13,756 settlement announced today by Attorney General Shapiro, George Smith Towing and Mr. D’Angelo are required to pay $5,756 in restitution for consumers who have submitted complaints against the company. Each consumer will receive $205 – full restitution for their costs. The company will also pay $5,000 in civil penalties and $3,000 for the cost of the investigation.

George Smith Towing and its owner have also agreed they will not violate Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law or any towing laws in the future.

“We believe there may be additional victims of this towing scam,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “If you believe you’ve been harmed, I want you to call my Bureau of Consumer Protection or email us before the April 29 deadline to file a complaint.”

The phone number to call is 1-800-441-2555. The email is scams@attorneygeneral.gov.

Consumers can also submit a complaint at www.attorneygeneral.gov/submit-a-complaint/.

The settlement, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, has been filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court by Senior Deputy Attorney Saverio P. Mirarchi.

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