Tow-in Industry Needs Rules

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Claims of unfair practices and racism among rivals in the capital’s lucrative, but very competitive, tow-in business have given rise to the establishment of a controlling and regulatory body. This was disclosed yesterday by David Martin, a veteran of 25 years in the car accident tow-in business. “We are all vulnerable and monthly lose a lot of money due to the competitive market, which is being monopolised by some individual companies. One specific tow-in company acts as if it is its prerogative to run the show. Its two trucks are normally first on the scene in the event of any accident happening anywhere in and outside the capital, even before such accident happens,” said a frustrated Martin. According to him, there exists no real fairness when it comes to standard fees for towing cars away from accident scenes. “The standard price which at least four legally registered companies have informally agreed to is N$350, but we are perpetually being squeezed out of business due to the sometimes illegal activities of some operators, prowling the streets twenty four hours of every day on the lookout for accidents to happen,” Martin claimed. He charged that some operators are illegally connected to the Namibian Police’s radio control frequencies and even possess such radio control equipment for their operations. “Such a case of illegal possession of police radios has been reported widely last year and is still pending. However, apparently the practice continues unabated and this particular company operates as if it is above the law and some sort of “untouchable”, making things very difficult for others who are trying to earn a fair income through professional service delivery to the country’s car owners involved in accidents,” said the owner of Town Tow-in Service in Khomasdal. With all the spin-offs from the growing tow-in industry, it is apparently a multi-million-dollar industry that includes vehicle owners, local insurance and panel-beating companies. “There is enough room for everyone to operate but because of selfishness and greed, some operators prefer to operate in unbecoming ways and manners to oppose others in the business. It has become so bad that operators promise the earth and moon to distressed motorists involved in accidents just to get a piece of the action,” Martins said. Racism allegedly also plays a big part in the business, aimed at driving black tow-in companies out of business. Apparently some white operators go out of their way to convince white car owners involved in accidents through fear installing methods not to allow black operators to tow their cars because “they would take it to Katutura”, depicting them as unreliable and valueless cheaters. “Another unorthodox method to charge exorbitant fees is to store cars on the premises of companies, instead of towing such cars directly from the accident scene to panel-beaters, charging car owners up to N$1 900 before they are released to the rightful owners. This is common practice and the culprits are getting away with it,” he said. At this afternoon’s meeting, open to all tow-in companies, a formal body with a constitution is expected to be established. According to Martin, the following companies have indicated interest in attending the founding meeting of the association that will work closely with the local traffic department in the capital: Northern Breakdown Services, Valley Recovery Services, Destiny Tow-in Services and Town Tow-in Service.