Add this to Chicago’s long list of accomplishments: first, when it comes to the most hostile towing market.
That's according to a new survey of auto insurance professionals, which puts the Windy City at the top of the list when it comes to skyrocketing and inconsistent towing charges and fees connected to vehicle towing and storage.
Chicago’s home state gets a dubious distinction in this survey, too: as the state most in need of legislative remedies on towing issues.
"Chicago topped the list as the city with the most hostile towing market," said Deirdre Manna, the Vice President of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, which commissioned the survey of more than 300 companies.
The PCI survey found that consumers nationwide pay through the nose -- to the tune of about $300 million -- when it comes to unfair and excessive towing fees. In Chicago, they say, those abuses run amok.
"In addition to high towing fees, high storage fees, we found 19 other fees Chicago consumers can be charged," Manna said. "We don't know what they are, they're listed in different ways, there's no communication for the towing companies."
It didn’t take long for NBC Chicago to find a viewer with a towing nightmare story.
One Chinatown driver says her car was unfairly hitched last month, even though her private parking permit for her condo lot was on the dashboard, properly displayed.
"This is all permit parking. Everybody gets a little card that you have to put in your window. We had the card in our car, so why should the car be towed?" said Hillary, who preferred we withheld her last name. "When we called and asked them about it, and said we've got this permit, they were like, 'Well, we didn't see it! You want your car, come get it. It's 200 bucks."
In response to the survey, a towing industry group said the vast majority of tow companies in Illinois are honest and responsible, but that a small number of "wreck-chasers" continue to give the good guys a bad name.
The Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates the towing industry, said it is important for consumers to know they have a right to have their tow complaints heard and investigated by the ICC. The phone number to reach investigators is 847-294-4326.