Q: Can a towing company increase the price on a previous quote?
The towing company gave me a $75 quote on towing service and I accepted. Once they got there, they said it was going to be harder than they had expected to get my car out of a ditch. They also needed to call a police offer to direct traffic. Before the officer arrived and before they even towed my car, they told me it would now be $150 and if I would still want the service or if I wanted to call another company. I agreed because no one else was answering. Can they legally raise the price? What are my rights and their rights?
To start, it sounds like you originally had an oral contract for your vehicle to be towed for $75. As such, generally speaking, the towing company was required to tow your vehicle for the agreed upon price. The price is usually offered based on the distance that the vehicle will be towed and the total amount of time that the company expects that it will take to complete the service.
There are circumstances where unforeseeable events may excuse a party from performance under the affirmative defense of frustration of commercial purpose. Based on the information that you provided, such as the need to call the police and wait for the police to arrive to direct traffic, if you created a breach of contract claim, the defense of frustration of commercial purpose may provide the towing company with a defense to their obligation to tow your vehicle for $75. At that point, the towing company's new offer was for $150, which you accepted.
On the other hand, it can be argued that based on the tow company's experience, it was foreseeable that they may have to call the police to direct traffic. As such, the towing company should have given an estimate rather than an offer, especially considering the location of your vehicle made it foreseeable that such an issue may arise.
As it relates to your rights, unfortunately your options are limited. First, you can pursue a civil action in small claims court for breach of contract by filing a civil summons to the court clerk. Sadly, the filing fee alone is likely more than $75 in your county, in addition to the time that you would have to spend in court, and therefore it may not be worth pursuing.
Other free options include filing a complaint with the company and sending the company a demand letter. Once again, these options may not be effective but it is a free option that may end up working. It is unfortunate that you were in a vulnerable position where you had no choice but to accept the second offer and it is even more unfortunate that the towing company will likely get away with it. I hope that one of the free options ends up working and that your vehicle is fixed!
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