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Colorado regulators urge tow operators to 'use discretion'

PUC notifying tow companies about expired plates
towed car
Posted at 5:41 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 20:32:32-05

DENVER — Attention people towed or booted for expired plates: the agency that oversees Colorado tow operators, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), is listening.

"I think the underlying message here is, there's a problem we all know of. We don't want citizens to be harmed by this when there's really no fault of their own," said Commissioner Megan Gilman in a hearing Wednesday morning.

Contact Denver7 has been investigating tow companies that are patrolling condo complexes looking for expired tags and plates, while the DMV has reported "significant delays" and shutdowns because of COVID-19.

"In every industry, there's a couple bad apples,"said Steven Carnes, with Elite Towing and Recovery, who added that reputable operators just don't do this.

"In this business, people should have always used discretion, especially, you know, in this day and age with the pandemic going on," he said.

Niki Cousins' car was booted in December outside her Aurora condo just days after her temporary tags expired. That same day, her new plates arrived in the mail.

"I didn't know what the PUC was, but I filed a complaint," she said. "That's how angry I was."

Just this month, the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles sent a new letter to the Public Utilities Commission asking that "tow companies use discretion when towing vehicles with expired or missing temporary permits or license plates until after the current situation subsides."

On Wednesday, the PUC commissioners decided not to make an emergency rule, instead deciding to post the DMV letter and notify tow companies about the recommendation directly.

"If we see this as a problem, we will do something about it and use emergency rules to to solve it," said Gilman. "So I'm hoping that those messages are enough to get the kind of the discretion that we're hoping for.

"They don't care. They just want money," said Cousins, who doubts that putting "bad apples" on notice will change anything. But she said at least people will know the PUC is taking complaints if the operators don't tow the line. "And if this happened to us, it's happening to everyone."

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