Councilmember Curtis Jones called the windshield barnacles illegal and said the technology got ahead of the law.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia City Council is pushing to pass new laws to regulate windshield barnacles.
It comes after the Action News Investigative Team uncovered the use of the barnacles in private pay parking lots and alleged excessive fees to have the barnacles removed.
A barnacle is a device that is suctioned to a vehicle's windshield using 1,000 pounds of force. The barnacle is released only after the vehicle owner pays a fee for it to be removed.
Our report questioned whether the barnacles were legal and if the fees to remove them were predatory.
Now, a tow company and the company behind the devices are defending their use but making changes to their fees.
In November, our team parked in a lot on the 4600 hundred block of Main Street in Manayunk. We paid $7 for two hours and then waited for our time to expire.
And within just a few minutes of overstaying our parking time, a man who works for A. Bob's Towing was putting on what's called a windshield barnacle on our vehicle.
At the scene, we spoke with the tow owner, Mikina Harrison by phone a few minutes later.
"Your car is not immobilized. You're free to go and drive off as you feel," she told our Chad Pradelli.
"I can't drive," he replied.
Our investigation led to hearings before City Council.
And now Harrison is talking on camera.
"The barnacle is a visual deterrent that is very successful and preventing people from illegally parking on private property," said Harrison.
Rashawn Allen is president of Barnacle Parking, which sells the barnacles to companies like A. Bob's Towing.
"Hey, I get it. You did a great job. You got complaints, brought it to the appropriate folk's attention," he told our Chad Pradelli. "It was addressed and we're working with the City Council and other lawmakers."
In order to get our barnacle removed, Action News had to input a credit card and we were initially charged $450.
The device was released and we put it in a parking lot bin. Eventually, we received a $300 refund. Our five minutes of expired parking cost $150.
Allen and Harrison now say they've lowered the fee to a net cost of $75.
"Did we get it right the first time? Everybody has different opinions on that," said Allen. "Did we listen and respond and react and make necessary adjustments? Yes!"
Critics told Action News that Harrison and others who incorporate the barnacles are circumventing Philadelphia's Ticket to Tow Law, which states a vehicle can't be "handled in any manner" unless ticketed.
But Harrison argued people know that and illegally park knowing a car likely won't be ticketed in a timely manner by police.
"It's a great device. It's a great way to actually save money and have the motorists be on their way immediately," she said. "And there's really no second offenders, you're not getting a second barnacle."
At City Council hearings, Philadelphia Police Deputy Police Commissioner Fran Healy called the fees extortion.
"The existing tow ordinance is being circumvented," he said. "These definitely need to be restricted or governed in some ways so my officers have clear guidance as well as the community."
Councilmember Curtis Jones also called them illegal and said the technology got ahead of the law. He vows to create new laws to govern barnacles.
"I want to thank 6abc for bringing it to our attention because it was not on my radar," he told Council.
Councilmember Jones said his office is working on drafting new legislation both with stakeholders and other lawmakers. It is expected to be completed in the next couple of months.
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