Police forces across the UK have been raking in cash from arranging vehicle recovery after motorists have broken down on the roadside. Drivers who call police in their hour of need will pay a commission for their motor being picked up.

More than two thirds of the country's forces retain fees worth million of pounds when commissioning recovery companies to remove crashed or broken down vehicles, according to an investigation by car insurance provider swiftcover.com. And fees, which cover administration costs, have risen by 48% on average in the past two years, from £11.34 in 2009-10 to £16.87 in 2012. The highest charge is £33.26 levied by Greater Manchester police.
When dealing with crashed or broken down vehicles, forces will have an agreement with one or more preferred suppliers, and will normally invoice the vehicle's insurer for the cost of recovery. Police forces are legally permitted to retain an unspecified portion of the amount paid by the insurer to cover administrative costs. But the number of vehicles recovered by police forces is falling each year, while the income per vehicle is rising.

The investigation found that 36 of the 52 police forces approached retained a fee when referring vehicles to recovery agents, while a further eleven either did not reply or provided an ambiguous response. Only five forces do not receive any income.

Meanwhile, the cops are refusing to use a free database designed to reduce costs for insurance companies and motorist which could reduce the cost to motorists and insurers by as much as £109m per year.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said the investigation reveals "nothing new" and that the recovery fees charged had been agreed by the insurance industry.