This disgusting practice ends up costing us all: don’t fall into their trap! 36



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Has this ever happened to you? Even if it hasn’t, you really need to be aware of what’s going on – because it is pushing the cost of our insurance up, not to mention causing enormous stress for the victims.

Insurance company Suncorp has raised the alarm on a practice known as car-napping, where people’s vehicles are held at ransom until the owner pays exorbitant towing and smash repair bills.

Suncorp says instances of this terrible practice have increased by 69 per cent in Victoria and 60 per cent in New South Wales.

Here’s how it happens: you’ve had an accident and your car needs to be towed. Understandably, you’re upset about the incident and grateful to the tow-truck operator. You sign the piece of paper the towie gives you, not realising your are signing away your rights.

It’s at this point, the insurer claims, drivers are being duped. They are presented with complicated legal documents they can’t understand and are then charged fees that reach into the thousands, with their car held by the smash repairs company until they pay up.

Consumer Action Law Centre chief executive Gerard Brody described car-napping as “when a network of tow truck companies and smash repairers charge exorbitant fees for repair work then hold the car for ransom until the driver pays”.

“It’s been called car-napping colloquially because people are paying very large sums of money to these smash repairers to get their car back,” Mr Brody said, adding that the network also included lawyers who would manage your insurance claim – a service most people don’t realise they have signed up for.

Alisha Clarke, who was given a bill of $8000 for a dent in her car door following an accident, told the ABC, “He told me they had a special team of people who deal with this all the time … and they would fight on my behalf to try and recover my repairs through insurance,” she said.


Suncorp claims the practice costs the industry tens of millions of dollars and pushes up the cost of insurance policies by $30 to $40 a year.






The Consumer Action Law Centre and Suncorp have called for greater consumer protection and regulation of the tow truck industry and the relationships with smash repairers and law firms.

Has this ever happened to you? Share your stories so others can learn from them!


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  1. I must admit I am not interested in nostalgia as much as some of your political posts or health stuff

    2 REPLY
    • I enjoy the variety of issues on starts at 60.
      Some people somewhere must work very hard so that we can access all this stuff and what’s more it’s free. I am thankful.

  2. I think that in SA, you have to use the tow company the police nominate. Apparently they have a rotation system, & you get the one whose turn it is

    3 REPLY
    • I’ve never heard that, I suppose it might apply if your car was obstructing traffic as they need to clear the road as quickly as possible. Fortunately I’ve driven my car into our local crash repairer myself. Very poor job they did last time too.

    • Police also seem to be part of the scheme. My daughter wanted to call her own tow truck company but police officer insisted she go to the one he call which ripped her off.

  3. It’s about time the tow truck drivers got the same treatment as Bikie gangs, some are as bad or worse and they make it impossible for the decent ones. Speak to your local state member email them and get some action.

  4. Why doesn’t this surprise me? We live near a towing service and we hear the uhf going so they can be first on the scene. Leeches feeding off other peoples misfortunes.

  5. If you have broken down you will need to get a tow to a mechanic or motor dealership, it’s worth having the details of your choice of repairer and ring them for support, they may be able to arrange a truck to take your vehicle to their premises.
    If you’ve been in a collision, ring your insurer first and they can advise of or arrange the tow vehicle. If you are concerned with where your vehicle is going, you could have it delivered to your home address. Try to maintain control of the situation.

    1 REPLY
  6. Alisha should give the name of the TowTruck company to the media and or Facebook. At least we’d all get the opportunity then to be very careful. That’s a crime to do that to people who are suffering severe stress. Maybe we could claim diminished responsibility if we’re tricked like that. It seems many are claiming that these days.

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