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

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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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  • Joe_D_Messina

    If your people think he deserves help then he should already be receiving it. It’s one thing to ask for votes on truly borderline cases but it seems incredibly unfair that somebody your own people want to help might be left out in the cold if a silly poll went the wrong way.

  • mbods2002

    Probably didn’t need the poll. Mr. Nolde did everything right, I think and has documentation about the pre-existing damage. What else can a person do? I’m surprised Hertz is not doing the right thing by their customer. There’s only a few car rental companies we deal with and they’re one of them.

  • Tom McShane

    I don’t think folks who always vote the Corporate Line get a veto in the polls. Pretty predictable how this poll would go.

  • MarkKelling

    Talking to the desk agent over the phone to report the damage “which the agent noted on the rental contract” means nothing unless a printed copy of the rental agreement WITH those notes was given to the renter. Never having rented a car from Hertz in Europe, I don’t know what that paperwork looks like, but here in the US you get a “scratch & dent” form (on request only now) to mark up with all the damage you see. It is signed by the renter and then a copy is kept by the agent and you receive copies to turn in at the end of the rental. Having this form is the only proof of preexisting damage no matter what “the agent noted on the rental contract”. No form and you pay for the damage. This seems to follow from the quote from Hertz in the article that states “attached pre-inspection form shows that the vehicle was accepted without any prior damage.”

    The charge makes sense if you do the math. $1,087.83 – $752.40 damages – $188.53 3 days rental charge = $146.90 for gas. Wow, that is a lot for gas, but at around $6 a US gallon in Germany and an average tank size of 20 gallons (that Hertz seems to think all of its vehicles have) not too far off considering the normal gas markup car rental companies do.

    So does the OP then want a completely FREE rental? Which would be the case from the description of his asking Hertz to refund the complete charge. He did rent the car and used it and he did choose the gas option, both are valid charges.

  • Jason J Olson

    Some things don’t add up on this claim. It seems like there is conflicting statements on if the rental agreement shows the pre-existing damage. The narrative shows that he called the rental desk about the damage who ‘noted it’. Did the consumer receive a copy? If so, it should be open and shut case. If the GPS didn’t work, why drive around with it broken, instead of finding your way back to the rental desk over the issue (and pickup the updated rental agreement). It’s sad to hear about the customer service experience, and that a customer cannot just take the word of an agent. But in these days, if it isn’t in writing, and you don’t keep a copy, it doesn’t exist. Should there be advocacy, sure, if there is some supporting documents. Without it, it seems like a bit of an expensive lesson learned.

  • FQTVLR

    This is confusing. Does the $1087.83 include the rental charge of $188.53? That is not clear in this posting. If it does include rental charge and Hertz credited him with the $752.40 for the existing damage then that leaves just $146.90. Car rental companies seem to run a racket adding to profit with repetitive damage claims. But this one is much less clear than many of the others we read here. I have not voted as I do not know what the disputed amounts are for. That information is something you should have included in the article so we would know exactly what Hertz is pursuing him for. Is the rental charge included in that amount or is Hertz charging for a number of unknown services/damage that are not mentioned here?

  • Alan Gore

    Even Europeans shouldn’t rent a car in Europe!

    Does Nolde have a copy of the rental contract with the pre-existing damage noted on it by the agent? Then it should be a simple matter of making another trip to Germany to fight Hertz in court. He should probably be able to get out of his fake $1088 damage claim bill by spending five times that in travel and lawyer hours.

  • Wuerzburg

    The Chase United Plus card has Worldwide PRIMARY collision insurance. Why did he not file a claim with Chase?

  • KarlaKatz

    “Even Europeans shouldn’t rent a car in Europe!” Amen, to that!

    For just slightly more than the price of a rental, I’ve managed to use “private” car hires, with driver, almost everywhere in Europe, except the largest metro areas; And, I use mass-transit therein.

  • KarlaKatz

    That’s why it’s under $200… Rental companies know that the renter/claimant most likely has a deductible more than that. Filing a claim would still have left OP with the $183 to pay.

  • jim6555

    What is under $200? According to the information provided, The amount charged on his credit card was reduced to $742. That’s much more than $183.

  • Patrica

    YES advocate if just so we learn from this situation. I’ve learned to document before and after, with photos, and to retain those photos for at least 6 months due to this advocacy column. I’ve learned that my personal car insurance needs to have comprehensive, not just liability, in order to cover rental car damage. And sadly, others have learned that credit cards do not necessarily cover rental car damage. Yes, I would like to know wth is going on, why the discrepancy/problem with Hertz…

  • KanExplore

    This looks like a very clear case to advocate for. I don’t see that the consumer did anything wrong at all this time (except maybe just walk away from the rental in the first place, if he could do that), and the company seems to be unable to demonstrate otherwise.

  • KanExplore

    There is no corporate line this time. I’m a “rules are rules” guy when it comes to someone trying to get an exception “just for me because I complained,” but this case obviously needs more investigation. A key detail is that the consumer says the damage was noted on the rental contract, whereas the company says it was not. One of them is mistaken, and from the descriptions there seems to be plenty of indication the rental agency was not exactly at the top of its game that day.

  • KarlaKatz

    oops… mea culpa

  • Tom McShane

    Hi, Kan. It is good to see you here with an unredacted post.
    Joe D. had worried above about voting on this case, because he was concerned that it could be voted down. I was reassuring him, (or trying to) that consumer-unfriendly polls are not a problem here.
    So far there are 11 no votes on this one, compared to 500+ yes votes so I’d say that at least 11 corporate liners voted.
    As for rules are rules, isn’t that what they call one a them tautologies? Anyhow, I have trouble with that as a guiding principle, because the company makes the rule and does not allow the customer to negotiate. In addition, in something like the rental car industry, the companies pretty much have the same rules.

  • cscasi

    Well, Hertz did finally tell chase it would credit the $752.40 it charged him for damages. I still think that Hertz should compensate him for the GPS charge if it was unusable, but he never got anyone to verify that. Also the rental was $188.53 for the three days. Did that include the extra charges that always come along with the base rental charge; on airport rental fee, some much a day charged as a license plate fee, etc.?
    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Always get any damage you not annotated on your rental contract and have the agent sign it before you leave the area; even if you have to go all the way back to the rental counter. Further, if something does not work, be sure that is annotated, as well. If you are paying so much a day for GPS and it does not work, then make them take that off the rental cost when you return it. Don’t and you can run into things like this.

  • Wuerzburg

    It is primary insurance with Chase. There is no deductible. He does not need to involve his own insurance company.