The Towing and Storage Safety and Enforcement Act, 2021 (TSSEA) came into effect January 1, 2024 in Ontario, providing provincial oversight over an industry that was previously subject to a patchwork of municipal regulations.
Towing services were previously licensed at the municipal level.
While the new regulations were announced in 2023, enforcement has only started this year.
The requirement to have a certificate was not being enforced until January 1, 2024, for tow and vehicle storage operators and July 1, 2024, for tow truck drivers.
Some of the consumer protection requirements that will now be required for all towing services include:
- Every tow truck operator and vehicle storage operator (company owner) must have a Certificate to offer services in the province of Ontario. Every tow truck must clearly display their name and TSSEA certificate number on the truck. You have the right to see a copy of the certificate.
- You have the right to decide who can tow your vehicle and to what location, unless otherwise directed by police.
- Tow truck drivers must obtain consent BEFORE they tow your vehicle. Without signed consent (permission to tow form) the tow operator cannot charge for towing services. Towing consent is not required for membership or roadside assistance type services.
- You must be provided with an invoice BEFORE requesting payment and a receipt upon payment. This is not required for membership or roadside assistance type services.
- Rates cannot exceed the maximum rates published with the Ministry of Transportation.
- Referrals to a business, facility or person can only be given if requested. Tow truck drivers and operators MUST disclose any benefit they receive for providing referrals to a person, business or facility.
- Multiple payment methods must be accepted (cash, cheque, credit card, debit).
- Towed vehicles must be transported via the most direct route. The vehicle owner must be notified by the tow operator or tow truck driver if taken to a different location from the one the vehicle owner specified.
- Customers must be allowed to retrieve personal property from towed vehicles with no charge. Storage operators must allow authorized persons access to retrieve personal items from vehicles during business hours or prearranged times.
- Tow operators must ensure every driver employed complies with TSSEA regulations and the Highway Traffic Act and its regulations.
“CAA has been working for over a decade with stakeholders and government officials to achieve provincial regulation of the towing industry,” said Teresa Di Felice, assistant vice president, CAA South Central Ontario.
“These changes will make a big difference for drivers, providing more confidence and certainty regardless of when or where they require support.”
“Public awareness of the rules that are now in place is going to be a critical element of successfully protecting drivers moving forward,” continued Di Felice. “CAA will be doing our part to help educate drivers across the province.”
Implementation of regulations will continue to roll out in the months ahead and it is expected that the final phase of regulations will be implemented starting in July 2024.
Towing professionals and businesses can visit the Ontario Government site for more detailed information.