Four towing companies suspended from city pact

Published 10:43 am Wednesday, December 7, 2016

After the city received several complaints from individuals and insurance companies about being overcharged by area tow companies, the Oxford Police Department conducted an audit of the five towing companies contracted with the city to provide tow services for wrecks and illegal parking.

OPD reviewed 10 random wreck reports and the invoices associated with the towing costs. Code Enforcement Officer Johnny Sossaman said after reviewing the invoices, he found several discrepancies and overcharges from four of the five companies. OPD Chief Joey East suspended the contracts for Marquis Towing, Caines Auto Body & Towing Services, Chandler Towing and Sheldon’s Roadside Towing.

The suspension will begin in January and last for 30 days. The suspension only affects the city putting those companies on the rotation list to be called in when there’s a wreck. The companies can still operate as usual otherwise.

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Shiver’s Towing was not suspended and Sossaman said there were no discrepancies in their billing.

Some of the issues included overcharging for cleanup, charging more days for storage and the vehicle was actually at the towing company, unknown charges and questionable legal fees.

Appeal to aldermen

The owners of Marquis Towing and Caines Auto Body & Towing Service attended Tuesday’s Oxford Board of Aldermen meeting to appeal the suspension.

Caines’ owner, Patrick Caine and his representative, Tara Scruggs, admitted there was a miscalculation of days on one of the reports, but that the legal fees they charged one insurance company was valid because the car owner never picked up the car.

Larry Marquis, owner of Marquis Towing, said his computer software makes it look like someone is charged an extra day when they aren’t.

“The insurance companies call us and tell us about how long they expect the car to be here and pay us for those days,” he said. “If the car is here longer or for a shorter time, we have to go in and manually change it.”

Mayor Pat Patterson said his office has received too many complaints for it to be just an oversight from the towing companies.

“If you’re on rotation, we don’t want these folks overcharged,” Patterson said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Patterson called for a motion to drop the suspension on all four companies; however, no motion was made. The suspension stands. After the 30-days, the companies will be put back into the rotation.

Alderman John Morgan said he hopes the suspension will be a message to the towing companies to be more careful in the future to not violate their contract with the city, however, he said he recognizes some of the wording in the contract is vague.

Sossaman agreed and said he would be meeting with the tow companies and will work on updating the language in the contracts.