Towing company could lose license amid allegations of overcharging customers for years

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STATEN ISLAND, NY – A Queens-based towing operation that has the exclusive right to operate on borough freeways in a system overseen by the NYPD could lose that privilege after the company’s license renewal was denied amid allegations, it overcharged customers for years.

The overcharging allegations were detailed in court documents related to an explosive lawsuit against Runway Towing Corporation last year.

New documents provided to Advance / SILive.com indicate that the reason for the denial is the alleged overcharging of Staten Islanders and other city residents. These documents include a transcript of a hearing between Runway’s attorneys and the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), the agency responsible for licensing.

A DCWP spokesperson said Runway Towing received a temporary operating letter that allowed the company to continue towing – even if its license had been denied – while Runway appealed the agency’s decision .

The spokesperson was unable to comment further due to an ongoing dispute.

THE JUDGE SAYS THAT THE LICENSE REFUSAL IS “TOO HARD”

A town hall spokesman said the operating letter, which allows Runway to continue operating on several of the city’s highways, including the Staten Island Expressway, has been extended for a final time until September 7. .

“The NYPD has a back-up plan pending implementation to ensure stranded motorists receive towing services on affected freeway segments,” a city hall spokesperson said of Runway – at the era – of no longer being able to tow motorists on Staten Island. Motorway and other motorway areas.

However, the day before the temporary operating letter expired, a judge answered Runway’s attorney’s appeal against the DCWP decision and overturned the decision, which he called “too harsh. “.

“The court is convinced that the respondent’s assessment of the ultimate sentence, the refusal to renew, is too severe in this case,” Justice Debra James said in a motion.

“Given its activity as a licensed towing company for 17 years, now employing 35 vehicles, 30 drivers and nine management employees, including 14 years without any violation found, the court considers the non-renewal sentence to be extremely serious. in its consequences, ”continued James.

In court documents, James said the DCWP should consider other appropriate penalties, such as “probation where, on a monthly basis, the applicant would submit invoices / receipts for all tows and verification maintenance of electronic records, for review by the defendant; Applicant’s review of its invoices to inform customers of the legal maximum towing charges and prohibited charges, which revisions would require review and approval by the respondent; and restitution / refund to clients of overpayments, plus a monetary fine for each violation payable by the petitioner to the defendant.

The DCWP said it is considering its options on how to proceed, but is appealing the decision as the agency does not wish to renew the license.

“We are appealing the decision so that they receive temporary exploitation letters pending the outcome,” said the DCWP spokesperson.

City Hall did not return a request for comment when asked if Runway would still be allowed to tow on behalf of the NYPD if a judge decided to reinstate his license.

THE ARTERIAL PROGRAM

“In the past, the NYPD issued licenses to approved towing providers selected through a competitive application process,” reads a recent copy of an NYPD application for towing services.

Of the city’s 17 highways, Runway operated seven.

While the DCWP licenses and regulates tow truck companies, the NYPD manages and regulates the city’s towing program for freeways, a DCWP spokesperson told Advance / SILive.com in January.

But even after receiving a license from DCWP, not all towing companies are allowed to tow vehicles on New York City’s 17 freeways, all of which are part of the “arterial program,” according to NYPD regulations.

A private towing company must receive a license from the DCWP and then apply to be part of the program, overseen by the NYPD.

Asked about the city’s process for awarding a contract to a company – ultimately giving it a monopoly – and briefed on the alleged overcharging and the city’s decision to give Runway a temporary operating letter, Mayor de Blasio said said, “Look, if a company isn’t behaving well with people, then they shouldn’t be able to do business with New York City and we have many examples of that. Over the past eight years we have had many, many times disqualified companies doing the wrong thing or punishing them more … If a company that should no longer do business with us, or a company that mistreats the people of the city, so you know, we’ll cut them off if that’s the right thing to do.

ALLEGED OVERLOAD REFUSAL NOTICE

Drivers who drive passenger vehicles and require towing on Staten Island freeways are supposed to be charged $ 125 for the first 10 miles and $ 4 for any additional miles after, according to towing and NYPD regulations.

If a vehicle weighs between 10,000 pounds and 18,000 pounds, the price would drop to $ 175 and $ 10 for each additional mile, according to NYPD regulations.

For vehicles between 18,000 pounds and 26,000 pounds, the towing price would drop to $ 250, while for vehicles over 26,000 pounds, it would be $ 300, the regulation says.

The regulations state that no towing company can charge a fee for towing, warehousing, or any other costs indirectly related to towing and storing a vehicle.

However, the documents submitted to Advance / SILive.com detail how the city alleges that dozens of drivers were charged by Runway more than what is allowed for towed distance, credit card charges, storage charges and other overage charges.

THE TRACK REFUSES FEES

Errol Margolin, the attorney representing Runway Towing, continued to challenge DCWP’s determination, saying the company had not illegally overcharged consumers and that the cited additional charges were authorized by the contract with the NYPD.

“Runway has provided services to consumers and is entitled to be paid for its services. If he overcharged consumers, he should have paid a fine in accordance with a scale of penalties, and not have his license revoked, ”Margolin.

Margolin says Runway was denied an evidentiary hearing, “which is fundamentally unfair and smacks of prosecutor misconduct.”

Since DCWP did not revoke Runway’s license but refused its renewal application, the city states that it was not entitled to a hearing of the evidence, but rather was entitled to a notice which was given to him.

Margolin, on behalf of Runway, continued to deny overcharging and any wrongdoing.

“If there had been a hearing, a judge would have determined whether the withdrawal fee, highway service fee is permitted by Runway’s contract with the NYPD,” he said.

The NYPD declined to comment on the case and referred the questions to the DCWP.

DCWP told Runway he could pay a penalty of $ 220,000 and receive a temporary license, which could be revoked at any time. Runway said he would not be able to pay and proposed a penalty of $ 125,000 payable immediately instead, which was refused by the DCWP.

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