Montreal

Laval towing company uses intimidation and threats, consumer protection office warns

A Laval towing company has been warned by Quebec’s consumer protection office to stop using questionable business practices, including intimidation and threats.

Complaints against Remorquage A9 make up for 18% of all those lodged against Quebec towing companies

Kevin Baker contacted police after he believed Remorquage A9 towed his car illegally. (CBC)

A Laval towing company has been warned by Quebec's consumer protection office to stop using questionable business practices, including intimidation and threats.

"We could say it's one of the top companies regarding complaints," said Charles Tanguay, a spokesman for Quebec's consumer protection office.

Dozens of complaints have been filed against Remorquage A9. Since 2014, complaints against the company make up for 18 per cent of all complaints filed against towing companies in the province.

I felt like it was totally an extortion.- Kevin Baker, believes his car was illegally towed

"Since two years, for that specific company, we received 34 complaints. That's amongst 194 complaints for all the towing sector."

Montrealer Kevin Baker contacted police after he believed Remorquage A9 took his car illegally.

Baker told CBC News that he always parks in his private parking spot, behind his home.

Last month, he woke up and his car was gone.

"So I freaked and said, 'Well, I have to go to the police station. My car's been stolen,'" Baker said.

When he called police, he was told it wasn't stolen – it had been towed.

In the last two years, almost one in five complaints made against Quebec towing companies involve Remorquage A9. (CBC)

Police and city officials told him they never authorized the tow, and Baker was never issued a parking ticket.

Baker called the towing company – Remorquage A9.

"They said, 'Yes, we have your car.' And I said, 'What's going on?' [They said,] 'Well, it's $140 to get your car back...We'll tell you where your car is when you give us the money.' I was like, 'What?! Are you kidding?!'"

Montreal laws require companies to tell car owners where their vehicle is within an hour of the tow, whether or not they've been paid.

Towing companies also can't charge more than $65.

Baker went to Remorquage A9's office in Laval the next day.

He said the company wanted a credit card number. When he refused and told them he was talking to police, they dropped the price to $60.

"They were very rude. They said, 'We'll tell you where your car is when you give us the money. And I was like, 'Wow, that can't be. I'm not giving you a dime until I know where my car is,'" Baker said. "So I felt like it was totally an extortion."

Towing companies "don't have a right to retain the vehicle in exchange for payment,” says Laval police spokeswoman Const. Evelyne Boudreau. (CBC)

Baker called 911, and Laval police responded.

With officers there, Remorquage A9 told Baker where to find his car and gave him an invoice.

"The police officer looked at me and told me, 'I would just throw that in the garbage,'" Baker said.

"We do explain to the towing company that they don't have a right to retain the vehicle in exchange for payment," said Const. Evelyne Boudreau, Laval police spokeswoman. "If after that explanation, they change their minds, that means we can't do anything about it."

Boudreau said that in Baker's case, police considered it a civil matter, so no police report was made.

Of the 34 complaints lodged against Remorquage A9, 22 are for billing and debt collection and 11 are for misleading or unfair practices.

It's prompted the Quebec consumer protection office to send the company a written notice.

"We issue to them a warning letter saying they should comply to the act regarding the collection of certain debts," Tanguay said. "And specifically, they should stop doing harassment, or threats, or intimidation."

Employee behaviour to blame, lawyer says

CBC News looked into Remorquage A9's ownership and management. Gianpietro Tiberio is a consultant, according to his lawyer.

Tiberio was named at the Charbonneau commission. RCMP linked him to the Rizzuto crime family.

His lawyer, Franco Schiro, told CBC News that Remorquage A9 is one of approximately five companies that operates in private parking lots in the city.

"Everybody likes the tow truck when you're stuck, the car doesn't start, you have a mechanical problem – there's no complaints. But as soon as somebody tows your car because you are illegally parked somewhere, then everybody's unhappy. So of course there will be a larger number of complaints against those companies," Schiro said, adding that in many cases, complaints are filed if a customer has a bad experience with an employee.

"In any job, you'll have somebody who doesn't do their job properly. A9 has strict policies with its employees – zero-tolerance – and when employees don't follow the rules and regulations, they're fired."

No one else from the company agreed to speak to CBC.

With files from CBC journalists Emily Brass and Allan Johnson

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