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3 On Your Side: Surprise Rental Car Charges

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jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Finding a deal when renting a car isn’t always easy, but some customers may be driving away thinking they’re getting one only to be hit with extra charges when they bring their rental car back! 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan explains.

When Sandra McKinnon rented a car from Dollar, she says she made it perfectly clear she didn’t want any extras.

“I do not want insurance, no insurance. I have coverage through Visa, I have coverage through State Farm, I don’t need any insurance,” she says she told the company.

Sandra reserved her car online and expected to pay around $500 for a week. But when she returned the car at the end of her trip, the total bill was nearly double: $944! Sandra had been charged additionally for what’s known as “loss damage waiver,” a product that works like insurance and covers you if the car is stolen or damaged.

The scenario sounds familiar to Brenda Turchi of Drexel Hill. Brenda says that when she rented a car from Dollar in Jacksonville and was offered insurance, she declined it.

“I told them no, I said absolutely not.”

But after dropping the car off at the end of her rental, she too got an unwelcome surprise — an extra $242 charge. She says, “For extra for insurance that I didn’t want.”

When her husband Pat complained to Dollar, he says, “I said, ‘well, we didn’t ask for insurance,’ they said, ‘yes you did.’”

In fact, there are hundreds of complaints about unauthorized charges by Dollar Rental. “The scenario is that each and every consumer we talked to has verbally declined the insurance, yet they find it on their bill when they return the car,” says attorney John Mattes, who has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Dollar customers.

According to Mattes, “We’re alleging that Dollar Rental car has systematically defrauded consumers all over the United States by overcharging them for insurance and other add-ons.”

And Mattes says the same allegations apply to Dollar’s sister company, Thrifty.

While their paperwork indicates that both women accepted the coverage when they picked up their cars, Mattes argues that language in the rental contracts is often confusing and no matter whether customers are signing a paper document or using an electronic device to sign, it’s difficult to read. Mattes says, “The electronic pads are small,” adding, “In each and every instance when we look at the contracts that have been provided to us by consumers, the print is tiny, the ink is faded. Is this just an accident?”

Hertz, the parent company of both Dollar and Thrifty, tells 3 On Your Side that it doesn’t discuss pending lawsuits, only saying that it intends to “fight the claims vigorously.”

So, this is yet another example of why it’s important to always check your paperwork. Brenda says, “Read everything on that paper, absolutely everything.”

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