DENVER — Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced a $1 million settlement with Wyatts Towing on Thursday after an investigation spanning several months found that the company had illegally kept money from consumers and regularly engaged in deceptive and unfair business practices.
As part of the settlement, Wyatt’s will pay the state $764,000 to be used for any consumer restitution.
The company will also not collect $236,000 in debt that it holds from people who signed up for payment plans to get their car back after as part of the “reduced retrieval law” that allowed people to reclaim their cars from tow companies for a max fee of $60. This law was part of the “Towing Bill Rights”law passed by the Colorado State Legislature in 2022.
"Wyatt's towing broke the law to make a quick buck. That is not OK," Weiser said. "People are out hundreds of thousands of dollars because they were charged for fees that they never should have been charged for. Now people get their money back, and we're going to reform how why it's towing operates."
Additionally, Wyatts agreed to change its business practices, including refunding fees and costs for incorrect tows, improving its documentation for consumers who get their cars out of the tow yard or cars sold at auction and conducting audits three times per year to monitor trends.
The investigation revealed that Wyatts and its affiliated companies towed thousands of vehicles without permits or proper authorization between 2020 and 2023, in violation of state law. Over a five-day period in September 2022, the company collected more than $100,000 from towing fees and auction sales.
Towing complaints increase after Colorado's Towing Bill of Rights takes effect
During that time, Wyatts would only issue refunds to persistent customers. Those who could not pay to get their car back saw it sold at auction and Wyatts kept the money, violating the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
Also, between October 2019 and October 2020, the investigation found that Wyatts collected more than $200,000 in improper fees without any customers receiving a refund.
“Under Colorado law, Wyatts Towing was required to give consumers basic information, and they didn't do that,” Weiser said.
The company is the largest tow company in the state and is owned by a company called Towing Holdings. In previous reports, Denver7 Investigates highlighted how Towing Holdings held interests in all aspects of the towing industry ranging from parking lot permitting, towing and selling cars at auctions. The attorney general said this arrangement led to numerous legal violations.
Weiser’s office found that this model incentivizes employees to tow as many vehicles as possible and gives the company “significant power” over customers who can’t afford expensive fees to get their vehicles back.
Zach Neumann, co-founder of the Colorado Economic Defense Project, called Thursday’s announcement “vindicating” for both his clients and his organization, which has been raising concerns about Wyatts for more than two years.
“I think this sends a message that it's not acceptable any longer to just take people's cars and hold them hostage,” he said. “We hope that Wyatt's discontinues its practices, and we don't have to do this again.
He lauded Wesier’s office for the investigation and said it will now be on state legislators to build on this to pass stronger towing laws in the upcoming 2024 session.
“The AG has done his job. Now it's on the Colorado Legislature,” he said. “There is some really exciting legislation coming to change the incentives within the towing industry in Colorado to make it more fair to consumers this coming spring.”
Wyatts denies any wrongdoing in the settlement, which was signed by CEO Trevor Forbes and attorney Jason Dunn.
In a email to Denver7 Investigates, the company said the findings were due to "administrative errors," stating: "As the Attorney General acknowledges in the agreement, Wyatts fully cooperated with every step of this investigation. After a long and thorough investigation, the AG office primarily found administrative errors and issues that had already been addressed by the company's regulators at the PUC. We look forward to continuing to help property owners manage their properties and to working with the AG and the legislature on ensuring the industry remains professional and well-regulated, with clear rules for everyone to follow."