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Victim of scooter theft must pay towing fees, B.C. tribunal rules

A North Vancouver man has been ordered to pay more than $500 in fees to get his stolen scooter back from an impound lot
B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal says a North Vancouver scooter owner is responsible for more than $500 in towing fees after his ride was stolen. | pixdeluxe / E+ / Getty Images

Insult to injury.

A North Vancouver man must pay $589.86 in towing fees after his scooter was stolen and dumped at someone else’s townhouse, the B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal has ruled.

On July 11, 2022, Keith Collyer’s scooter disappeared from his driveway, according to the written decision published this week. The next day, another resident found it in their carport and called police, who checked the plates and advised them to have it taken away by a towing company. Collyer filed his police report that evening.

On July 18, Mitchell’s Towing staff informed police that they had a scooter belonging to Collyer, which they determined by checking its VIN against police records. Collyer picked it up that day but found it came with a $150 impound fee, a $49.25 per-day storage fee, a $39 fuel surcharge, and a $28.02 processing fee. After tax, the total bill was $589.86, which Collyer paid.

Collyer later filed a claim seeking to have the fees refunded.

In his submissions, Collyer argued that, under the Motor Vehicle Act, the person who called to have his vehicle towed should be legally responsible for the towing and storage fees and that it should be up to them to seek compensation from him. He also asserted that they did not have authorization to have it towed because they were not on their townhouse strata council.

The tribunal rejected those arguments, however, finding that under the law, a person who calls a towing company can legally enter into a contract on behalf of the vehicle’s owner and that the person who makes the call should only be reimbursed if they incurred charges themselves.

“I find that the law of agency means that towing companies can directly charge a vehicle’s owner for towing and storage charges,” tribunal vice-chair Eric Regehr wrote.

Collyer also alleged that he paid Mitchell’s Towing under duress, but Regehr concluded Mitchell’s had not overridden Collyer’s free will through any “improper or illegitimate economic pressure.”

“Mitchell’s Towing had a right under section 192 [of the Motor Vehicle Act] to receive payment from Mr. Collyer. So, I find that there was no duress,” he wrote.

Collyer argued that Mitchell’s fees were excessive, given how much they charge ICBC, and that his storage fees would have been much less had the company staff been more proactive in checking with ICBC to see if the scooter in their tow yard was reported stolen.

Building on his earlier reasoning that the towing contract was itself legal, Collyer was “deemed to have accepted Mitchell’s Towing’s terms,” including their charges, Regehr concluded.

“This is true even if they are higher than the industry standard or higher than it charges ICBC. I recognize that Mr. Collyer had no choice in the matter and believes the charges are unfair, but this is how section 192 operates,” he wrote.

As for whether they should have alerted him sooner, Mitchell’s argued that they usually wait 10 days after they bring a vehicle in to check whether it has been reported stolen “because most people whose vehicle is either lost or stolen proactively call towing companies to try to find it.” They do not have any contractual obligation to call ICBC if they discover a stolen vehicle, they argued, and Regehr agreed that six days was “reasonably prompt” when Mitchell’s wouldn’t have any specific reasons to believe the scooter had been stolen in the first place.

“It was simply parked in someone’s carport,” the ruling states. “For these reasons, I find that Mitchell’s Towing was entitled to full payment of its invoice.”

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