Several possible reforms have been put forward for the WA tow truck industry in a bid to make it regulated, and prevent price gouging and unethical behaviours.
Consumer Protection invited over 6000 stakeholders to engage in consultation on reforms for the industry. It received 37 formal submissions and more than 400 survey responses from industry participants, consumers, insurers and government agencies.
According to the WA Government, around 90 per cent of survey respondents agreed the industry should be regulated.
WA Transport Minister Rita Saffioti says WA and Tassie are the two states with the least regulation of the tow truck industry.
“Regulation in WA is long overdue and is essential to ensure that consumers are properly protected whilst improving safety and confidence in the industry,” she said.
“The reform and associated regulation will bring WA in line with most other Australian States and ensure that we have legislation in place that serves the needs of the community whilst supporting an honest towing industry that encourages fair competition.”
Commerce Minister Roger Cook adds that the views expressed as part of the consultation process indicated widespread community concern about the industry.
“Ethical operators report that they are disadvantaged by the tactics of some unscrupulous drivers who threaten, mislead and harass people to get business. The consensus is that this behaviour needs to be stamped out.”
The following suggested reforms have received community support:
- Tow truck businesses and drivers to be licensed, with criminal background and association checks as part of the application process;
- Control access to the road network with powers to suspend and cancel licences for breaches of road laws, safety and fees;
- Setting price caps and registering depots being used for storage to manage the issue of excessive towing and storage fees being charged; and
- Additional requirements on ‘Authority to Tow’ forms signed by consumers before a vehicle is towed to increase transparency about what the consumer is authorising.
Responsibility for executing changes has moved to the Department of Transport, which will present reform options to the State Government by mid year.
Depending on reform options, this may include legislative changes.
While this work is ongoing, the Department of Transport is also preparing amendments to the Road Traffic (Vehicles) Regulations 2014 to update technical standards and begin rolling out a communications campaign to advise drivers of their rights.
This will require maximum tow and storage fees to be recorded on the ‘tow truck driver’s statement’, which is given to the person authorising the tow at the roadside.
The consultation report that summarises the feedback can be viewed on the Consumer Protection website.