Cabinet has today endorsed retired District Court Judge Michael Forde to lead an independent three month investigation into the towing industry after the extent of the intimidating tactics and shady practices by ‘shark’ operators was recently exposed.
Minister for Main Roads and Road Safety Mark Bailey said the scope of the investigation would focus on the removal of parked vehicles from private property and roads and what regulatory reform could be undertaken to clean-up the industry.
“The practice of removing parked vehicles on private property by tow truck operators is not currently subject to regulation and is causing considerable community concern,” Mr Bailey said.
“These unscrupulous practices within the industry have to stop, we’ve had a gutful, the public has had a gutful and that is why the Palaszczuk Government has acted swiftly.
“I look forward to speaking further with Mr Forde to discuss how he will incorporate input from the community, key government agencies, and industry stakeholders in his investigation.”
The scope of the investigation will include whether:
- minimum standards should be established for signage in private parking
- fees and charges for towing and storage should be capped
- there should be restrictions on the maximum distance which a vehicle may be towed from where it was first parked
- there is a need for consumer protections such as limiting predatory practices and acts such as ‘spotting’
“This has been an issue that has challenged many governments due to legal complexities but clearly something needs to be done to clean-up the unregulated side of the industry,” Mr Bailey said.
“Mr Forde brings the legal expertise we need to address these challenges.
“We must bring this industry into line with community expectations and an independent investigation is the best way to do this.
“I want to thank the community who have called the 1800 681 636 hotline. Your stories will ultimately help make a change for the better. We’ll be leaving this hotline open as part of the consultation process for the investigation.”
As at 2pm 15/05/17 – TMR has had 339 calls to the towing complaints and enquiries hotline in the past week. Of these 250 have logged official complaints. The bulk of the complaints relate to entities which are not currently accredited under the towing Act.
Complaints raised include the inadequacy of the parking signage used, the level of towing fees being charged, which reportedly range between $400 and $1000, vehicle owners being left stranded, and at times intimidating behaviour of the tow truck drivers and company.
The top two hotspots so far are:
- Fortitude Valley, Albion, Newstead (37%),
- Ascot, Hamilton, Eagle Farm (15%)
Mr Bailey said the aim of the investigation would be to reach a balance between what is fair and reasonable from a community perspective and a property owner’s right to remove vehicles parked without permission on their property or against signed parking conditions.
TMR will provide the secretarial support for the investigation. Mr Forde will report back to Government with his findings within three months.
The full Terms of Reference for the investigation is available online: http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/-/
Mr Forde is a former District Court Judge of some 15 years. Prior to that he was a barrister for some 20 years. His practice included insurance law, property law and public law. He also holds a Masters degree in Public Sector Management. He was for two years a director of Transparency International in Australia, an anti-corruption group having both a local and international presence. Since retiring from the District Court, Mr Forde has been a consultant with a firm of chartered accountants in Brisbane. In that role he is both a probity adviser and auditor. This involves issues of integrity and honesty for those projects involving a tender process. The role of the probity adviser is to ensure that each party receives similar information and ensures that the process is fair.