It’s bad enough that Eric Loch was the victim of credit card fraud. But when he found himself forced to pay more than three times as much to rent a car as he had already prepaid because his car rental agency wouldn’t accept his new card, it’s infuriating — and just plain wrong.
Car rental companies, particularly ones like Payless Car Rental that offer “lower” rates, are notorious for looking for any excuse to charge customers in order to pad their bottom lines. But car rental companies have no business charging customers three times as much as they prepaid for the same car. That’s price-gouging, and it’s terrible customer service.
Loch reserved a car from Payless Car Rental, a subsidiary of Avis, at one of its Orlando, Florida locations. He prepaid for the reservation using his Bank of America Visa card. But a few weeks before he was scheduled to pick up the car, Loch discovered a fraud issue on his Bank of America Visa account. He notified Bank of America, which issued Loch a new card and instructed him to destroy the previous card. In the meantime, Loch had made no other changes to his account.
When Loch arrived at the Orlando Payless facility to pick up the car, the Payless agent on duty told Loch that Payless could not honor Loch’s prepaid rate of $148 per day because the bank had changed the credit card Loch used to make the reservation. The agent said that Loch would have to pay $475 per day for that same car.
Loch showed the agent his identification and his replacement Bank of America Visa card. The agent told Loch that he could wait for the manager, who was due to arrive in 90 minutes. As Loch was already delayed for an appointment in Sarasota, he could not wait. He had to take the car at the rate of $475 per day.
When Loch complained to Payless, its agent merely responded that “Unfortunately we are unable to match the rate to your original reservation; keep in mind rates can change at any time. The prepaid was refunded back to your account.”
While Loch was no doubt relieved to have his prepayment refunded, that amount was what Payless should have honored in the first place. He contacted our advocates to ask for help in securing a refund of the price differential between the $148 daily prepaid rate and the $475 daily rate he was forced to pay.
Unfortunately for Loch, Payless’s “Pay Now Terms & Conditions,” which he would have used to make the prepayment, indicate that
Your credit or debit card will be charged upon reservation confirmation. Method of prepayment toward your rental may not be changed after confirmation.
The same credit or debit card used to complete an online prepaid reservation must be presented at the rental pick-up counter as a form of identification. At time of rental pick-up, the last name on all rental credentials (license and credit or debit card) must match the last name on the reservation. If the last names do not match, for security purposes the prepaid reservation will not be honored.
Your quoted rental rate is based on the exact parameters (locations, dated, etc.) of your particular rental – changing your confirmed reservation parameters could result in a different rate.
Payless doesn’t care about the fraud or that there were no other changes to Loch’s credit card — only that the card he showed its agent didn’t match the one he made the reservation with.
But even though Payless states directly that it doesn’t have to honor the prepaid rate when the confirmed reservation parameters don’t match, the only change to the parameters in Loch’s case was the credit card number — which was changed because of fraud. The car he was renting didn’t change — so charging him a different rate doesn’t make sense.
Loch and his wife, Anne, contacted our advocacy team for assistance. (Company contacts for Payless can be found on our website.)
Our advocates contacted Payless on Loch’s behalf, who explained that the new rate also included a charge for an upgraded vehicle which Loch had neither requested nor wanted.
Anne Loch asked how the problem could have been avoided, but was told by Payless’s agent that her husband could have shown the closed card at the time of rental and paid with the new card. (Since he’d destroyed the old card on orders from Bank of America, he couldn’t have done this.) The Lochs also asked whether they could have alerted Payless to the issue prior to the date Loch picked up the car, but Payless’s agent explained that the car would have had to be rebooked under the new card and the daily rate would have changed anyway. Why the daily rate would have changed is not clear to us or to the Lochs.
Sadly for Payless, they probably lost a loyal customer by adding an unrequested upgrade to Loch’s rental car reservation and then engaging in price-gouging. But Payless did agree to refund the Lochs the price differential for the daily rates that Loch was forced to pay in Orlando.