By Andy Sheehan

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — They lie in wait outside the CVS in East Liberty, and if someone leaves the lot for business outside the store, they’re free to tow the car.

KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “What’d they do wrong?”
Tow Worker: “Parked where they shouldn’t have.”

The cars are towed away and when the unsuspecting owners return, they’re in for a shock.

Maddie Griffin: “That’s my car.”
Audrey Griffin: “They just took my mom’s car.”

Owners of private lots say they have the right to tow the cars of anyone not doing business in their store. Companies like TAG Towing are only too happy to oblige, demanding hundreds of dollars to give the car back.

tag towing KDKA Investigates: Attorney Challenges Predatory Towing Practices

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

It’s a drama that’s played out several times a day in several locations, and people who are towed have little choice but to pay their fines and get their car. But, now, it appears they will get their day in court.

The same thing happened to Antoinette Osei, who parked in the CVS lot to get a prescription filled, but says she went to the bank first to get the money pay for it. When she came back, her car was on the hook.

Osei: “He said, ‘If you give me $200, I’ll drop your car.”
Sheehan: “$200?”
Osei: $200, on Good Friday.”

Walking by at the time was attorney Josh Ward, who interceded, paying the $200. When he returned to his office, he found a city ordinance which limits tow fees to $135. He’s now filed a class action suit.

“Anybody that has been charged a tow or a drop fee in excess of $135 by TAG Towing, is a member of this class and is entitled to compensation,” said Ward.

But on the phone, TAG’s owner Brian Haenze disputed the claims, saying the city ordinance applies only to its own designated tow company, McGann and Chester, and that the city doesn’t have the power to cap towing fees.

Ward says he’ll argue otherwise in court.

“The fact that they’re overcharging is going to be their undoing,” he said.

Haenze, likewise, said his business is perfectly legal, and that despite the claims of the car owners, TAG waits at least 20 minutes before towing a vehicle and will often bring it back. After Maddie contacted TAG, they returned her car, but she had to pay $250 to get it off the hook.

“This one-minute transaction cost me $250,” she said.