By Jamyra Perry
PHILADELPHIA — The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection is suing several Philadelphia towing companies for allegedly threatening, intimidating and coercing consumers when they refused to pay the fees after their cars had been illegally towed.
The lawsuit, filed Friday morning in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, names as defendants Siani’s Towing and Recovery, Aubry’s Towing, Angelina’s Towing and Recovery, and Miguel Caban and Miguel Caban Jr.
“You can’t just drive off with someone’s car and hold it hostage because you don’t like where they parked it,” Attorney General Shapiro said in a news release. “Using the authority of a towing service to extort money from Philadelphians is wrong and illegal and we’re holding these companies accountable.”
The AG’s office is seeking a permanent injunction against the towing companies, and civil penalties and damages.
The AG’s office reported that it had received “dozens” of complains about the towing companies, but the lawsuit references only seven specific complaints.
The towing companies towed cars from the Germantown, Port Richmond, North Philly, Olney, Darby and Juniata Park neighborhoods, among others, the AG’s office told the Tribune.
The AG’s office alleges that many of the cars the towing companies moved were not illegally parked or, if they were illegally parked, the signage indicating that they were illegally parked was faded or obscured. The AG’s office also alleges that the towing companies refused to accept credit card payments and demanded that the vehicle owners pay cash to get their vehicles back, which is a violation of the Philadelphia Towing Law.
At least one person who complained to the AG’s office said they felt intimidated when they went to get their vehicle because the towing company office had two large dogs inside.
Several Yelp reviews of Siani’s Towing included complaints of wrongfully towed cars, rude staff and intimidation.
When called for comment, an employee who answered the phone at Siani’s Towing said “F- — off” and immediately hung up.
Philadelphia has had several issues with predatory towing practices.
Back in February 2017, Mayor Jim Kenney signed a bill into law that prevented towing companies from targeting vehicles in private parking lots and driveways that haven’t been ticketed by the Philadelphia police, the Philadelphia Parking Authority or other law enforcement agencies.
Jamyra Perry is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.