Pursued by collections for pre-existing damage to a Hertz rental — should we help?

By | March 10th, 2016

Guenter Nolde convinced our advocacy team that he’s not responsible for pre-existing damage to his rental car.

He convinced Hertz, too, while he was at it — at least in part. Hertz issued him a partial refund for a charge against his credit card — but sent a collection agency after him for the rest.

Why is Hertz still trying to collect from Nolde for damage he didn’t cause?

On a trip to Stuttgart, Germany, last year, Nolde rented a car from Hertz for three days for $188.53. His problems began as soon as he arrived at the Stuttgart airport.
When Nolde picked up the rental car, the Hertz representative was unprofessional — he failed to give Nolde usable directions to the pickup garage, which Nolde had to get from a Euro Rent-a-car attendant.

Then, upon inspecting the car, Nolde noticed damage to the tire rim of the car, and a small gap in front of the rear left fender. In addition, the gas tank was not full. Using the house phone at the pickup garage, Nolde notified a Hertz agent of the damage to the car, which the agent noted on the rental contract.

The agent also told Nolde that an attendant would be available at the end of the garage to activate the GPS in the car, but there was no attendant available to activate it. Nolde was unable to use the GPS during his trip. And when he returned the car without further damage three days later, there was no attendant available to receive the car or the keys — Nolde had to drop them off in a box.

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Nolde returned home to find yet another unpleasant surprise from Hertz awaiting him. Hertz had charged $1,087.83 to his Chase United MileagePlus credit card. As Nolde had declined any optional services when he rented the car, this charge made no sense to him. Nolde contacted Hertz about the charge, and received a form letter from a Hertz representative stating that:

The Hertz Claims Risk Management in Germany is being asked to make an investigation. Since I am required to contact them directly, it may be approximately two weeks before you hear from Hertz again. Please be assured Claims will notify you as soon as they receive the requested information.

Hertz then followed up with a letter claiming that the charges were correct because “The attached pre-inspection form shows that the vehicle was accepted without any prior damage. Therefore we have determined that the damage occurred during your rental, so you are responsible for the cost of repair.”

Attached to the letter were several photographs showing damage to the tire rim and around a door — which Bob Barnett, owner of Highland Auto Body & Collision Co. in Macedonia, OH, told Nolde was probably caused by incorrect lifting during servicing of the car — not while the car was in Nolde’s possession.

Nolde disputed the charge with Chase. Chase wrote back that Hertz “provided documentation showing that they only billed $752.40 for damages, and they are willing to credit the amount [Nolde was] billed for damages only.” Chase considered “the remaining portion of the charge valid.” The remaining portion was for fuel — which Nolde had to pay for when he picked up the car.

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Nolde wrote Hertz asking for a refund of the remainder of the charge, but instead, Hertz sent the charge to Joseph, Mann & Creed, a collections agency in Twinsburg, OH.

So now — after his terrible customer service experience with Hertz — Nolde is asking for our help in getting the collections agency to go away.

Certainly it’s unreasonable for Nolde to have to pay for damage to the car that he didn’t cause. And his rental contract clearly indicates that the damage was preexisting when he rented the car.

Nolde also has his statements from Chase showing the charges against his account. It’s unclear what documentation Hertz provided to Chase showing that they only billed $752.40 for damages.

Our advocates think Hertz is playing games with Nolde. And Nolde’s documentation certainly suggests that.

Should we advocate for Guenter Nolde?

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