WREG looks into what’s legal after drivers complain about cars being towed

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Dealing with your car being towed can be a nightmare, and it doesn’t make it any better when you feel as though the towing company is taking advantage of you or adding extra fees.

There are two types of tow companies: ones that respond to cars illegally parked and ones that respond to wrecks and emergencies.

We’ve recently heard several complaints about Superior Automotive and Towing, which tows cars illegally parked in certain areas in Memphis.

Shante Williams says she was about to drive to Atlanta one morning when her car was no longer where she left it.

“I was shocked because I was tired. I was up all night trying to get prepared to go out of town.”

She says she was even more surprised to learn it wasn’t stolen but towed away from her apartment parking lot by Superior Automotive and Towing.

“It’s normally your car has been towed because you don’t have a permit in your window.”

But she says she did have a permit that was placed in the upper right corner of her windshield.

"The towing company said, ‘Well, since it was in the window, we’ll charge you $75.'"

She says she called police, who told her she shouldn’t have had to pay and could file a lawsuit, but she says that seemed like too much work to get her money back.

We caught up with another driver on the phone who said she also had an issue with Superior Towing.

“The towing company had hooked up my car to their truck and I came outside and I’m like asking them, 'What’s going on? What’s the problem?'” said Javita Jones.

Jones says she stopped by her friend’s place for less than 15 minutes when she came out to see her car being towed. She says she pleaded with the driver to release it and he finally told her he’d give her a deal and let it go for $65.

“They were still hooking my stuff up to the car like they were going to take off, so at that point, I gave in," said Jones.

She says she doesn’t have the receipt, but we found out what she was charged is called a drop fee and should be $45 in the City of Memphis.

“These are supposed to be on display in every tow truck that operates in the city of Memphis," said Evan Mealer, owner of Blues City Towing, as he showed us a breakdown of towing charges.

Mealer owns Blues City Towing and says Class-A towing charges in Memphis are capped at $125. There’s also an addition of $30 a day for storage, a possible $10 administration fee and $10 oil-dry fee if your car was towed from a wreck.

“What fees are not allowed are like gate fees, key fees, fees to retain your property, clean up fees; fees like that are not allowed," said Mealer.

We went to Superior’s office to get their response to these complaints, but a manager said they do everything under city regulation. He said he didn’t want to go on camera since they did nothing wrong.

We pulled Superior’s profile with the Better Business Bureau and learned they have a B+ rating with 14 complaints.

Those complaints vary from customers saying their cars were illegally towed, that no one would answer at the office so customers couldn’t get their car back and storage fees went up, to reviews of bad customer service.

“Our industry should be no different than anything else; we should be held accountable to take care of people who are already having a bad day if they had to call us in the first place," said Mealer.

He said it’s important to speak up if you think you’ve been wrongfully charged or treated.

If your car has been towed, you can call 636-3575 to find out when and where it’s been taken. If you have any problems with tow services, you can report them to the City’s Permits Office at 636-6711.

A city spokesperson did say Superior Towing is currently in good standing with the city.

Several tow truck companies in Memphis are also working to get businesses that tow illegally parked cars open 24 hours a day, so cars can’t be held hostage for storage fees.

Superior Automotive & Towing, LLC released the following statement:

"Without exact information (i.e. date, make, model, and location where vehicle was towed from) I am only able to give you a generalized explanation regarding why a person would only be charged $75.00 for a non-consensual tow. Superior Automotive & Towing, LLC (Superior) enforces the rules and regulations set forth by the State of Tennessee, Landlord Tenant Act. Superior also operates under guidelines set forth by the ordinances of the City of Memphis, which are enforced by the Permits Office. Non-consensual tows are $125.00.
Having said this, if an apartment complex requires tenants to have a parking permit in their vehicle(s): 1. Superior must display postage signage stating "Permit Parking Only, All Others Will Be Towed At The Owner's Expense". 2. The tenants are instructed at the time of receiving such parking permit from their leasing office as to where the parking permit must be place in their vehicle; on the front windshield, directly above the Vehicle Identification Number plate.
If a vehicle does NOT have a properly displayed, visible parking permit then the vehicle is subject to be towed. Superior has encounter situations where the vehicle owner did NOT place the parking permit in the above instructed location (i.e. in the floor board, in the glove box, behind dark tint, etc.). We are legally entitled to charge the owner of the vehicle $125.00, but we will reduce the fee to $75.00 if the owner of the vehicle replaces the parking permit in a visible area as instructed when he or she received the parking permit.
All vehicles that are towed by Superior are photographed prior to being towed to record the violation and ALL violators can request to view these pictures when he or she retrieves their vehicle from our lot. Also, the Permits Office can request an audit of the records regarding a non-consensual tow if there are any questions as to the just cause for the tow or charges accrued."