If you’ve ever shaken your fist at the sky in outrage over getting charged extra fees or higher rates for a rental car, you’re not alone. And while the Better Business Bureau can’t punish companies itself, it’s asking four states to go after the rental car industry after a flood of complaints about one company.
The BBB serving eastern Oklahoma wrote a letter [PDF] to the attorneys general of that state, Florida, California, and New Jersey asking them to take action after it received 830 complaints about Payless Car Rental, a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group.
More than 10% of the complaints the BBB received were from people in California and Florida. After reviewing the complaints, the group identified a pattern of complaints in three areas about things you likely won’t find surprising if you’ve ever rented a car:
Sales Practice Issues: People have complained about things like the misrepresentation of options like extra insurance, loss damage waivers, and upgrades. Although the terms and agreement section on Payless Car Rental’s site says additional insurance probably won’t be required and that customers can use their own policies, some allege that sales reps misrepresent the necessity of optional insurance.
Billing and Collection Issues: There have been many complaints about unnecessary charges for anything from special equipment like GPS, optional insurance, and deposits that vanished into thin air. Only after filing a complaint were some consumers able to recover those funds, the BBB says.
Some complaints accuse the company of charging for unavoidable upgrades, which is also related to contract issues.
Contract Issues: On that note, the BBB says there is a “significant failure” to honor the rental price people see online when they’re booking their car. Though they expect that’s the amount they’ll be paying when they pick up their car, in general, they’re finding upon arrival that the reserved vehicle isn’t available and they’ll have to pay for an upgrade, says the BBB.
This is noted in the small print on the reservation screen online, BBB says, where it reads: “The above noted rate is an estimation only and may differ at time of rental. Some fees and surcharges may be taxable. Taxes and surcharges are not within our control and may change without notice. Any changes to the date, time, and vehicle type for this reservation could result in a price change.”
Despite bringing those complaints to the attention of Payless Car Rental twice, the company hasn’t done anything to fix the situation.
“BBB has attempted to address the pattern of complaints with Payless on several occasions over the past three years,” said Amie Mitchell, president and CEO of BBB Tulsa. “The most recent attempt was on March 29, 2017, in a letter sent by certified mail. The business failed to respond. Because consumers are still coming to us with the same complaints, week after week, we felt we had no choice but to turn this matter over to law enforcement.”
In addition to Payless Car Rental, the BBB notes it processes complaints for other companies owned by Avis Budget Group — Avis Rental Car, Budget Rental Car, Budget Truck Rental, Dollar Rental Car, and Thrifty Car Rental — and “all have a similar history of complaints and failure to address a pattern of complaints.”
The BBB is now asking that the Attorneys General investigate the rental car industry in general, and Avis Budget Group specifically.