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7 On Your Side: Cracking down on predatory towing

7 On Your Side is cracking down on predatory towing. (ABC7)

Finding the Black Friday deals is easy. But finding the parking to capitalize on those deals can be tough, especially with predatory towing becoming a real problem in the DMV. But a Virginia state lawmaker and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are cracking down following a 7 ON YOUR SIDE investigation.

Charlie Dietz isn't a Hollywood icon, but he starred in his own version of "Gone in 60 Seconds" after getting towed from an Arlington parking lot. He said, "It just feels so wrong, so unfair."

We first met Dietz last winter following his towing experience. His car had been hauled away from the lot in less than 90 seconds as he dipped into a nearby restaurant to ask about parking.

"You wouldn't think you could park, go in and say, 'Where can I park?' then come out and your car would be gone," Dietz said.

But the 7 ON YOUR SIDE I-Team armed with hidden cameras saw it happen again, and again last winter. We saw cars towed in seconds, with the help of spotters who sit and wait for you to step one foot out of a private lot.

Virginia Delegate Kaye Kory became aware of Dietz's experience and decided to take action after hearing about the predatory towing he dealt with. She says, "They're borderline legal and people need to be paying attention."

On Wednesday Kory filed a bill in the General Assembly to crack down on the practice. Her proposal says you cannot be towed from a private lot unless the owner of the private property is present.

"I think this will make people think twice," Kory said, "I think it will slow down the number of cars that are towed away."

Kory admits she thinks the legislation will be hard to pass and that businesses may not support the bill. But she could get additional support for the crack down from another source: Congress.

Virginia Congressman Don Beyer has proposed legislation on Capitol Hill that would give local governments the power to finally police predatory towing.

"It's essentially been unregulated for 20 years," Beyer said.

Beyer says the proposal is an amendment to a Highway Bill currently under consideration. He says the plan, which could get action in the next few weeks, would not set firm rules for jurisdictions, but simply provide options.

"We're just giving them the authority to figure out the right response and it might differ from state to state, Beyer said, "We just want to reinforce the best practices and get rid of the worst."

Charlie Dietz says he's thrilled with the potential for state and federal action to deal with towing companies that have gone unregulated. He's glad Kory's bill puts the focus on businesses, which may be unaware of the behavior of the tow companies they contract with for service.

"They're not looking at it as though I'm the customer, obviously. They're looking at it as thought the business is the customer," Dietz said, "So as long as the business gives them free reign to do what they're doing, they're set."

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