When Brett Harris returned his rental car intact to E-Z Rent-A-Car in Portland, Ore., he had no idea that three weeks later he would be threatened with legal action for damage to the vehicle.
The only problem: The date on the report showed that the damage happened after he had already returned it.
Harris returned the rental car — damage free — on Aug. 7, yet the damage report in the email from E-Z Rent-A-Car initially showed the date of the damage as Aug. 10. Harris informed E-Z Rent-A-Car that the car had not been in his possession on that date.
E-Z Rent-A-Car was silent for more than three months. Then in December, Harris received a threatening email warning him that he would be facing legal action if he did not pay $125 for the replacement of a damaged windshield.
There was yet another problem: The “new” damage report in this email cited the date of loss as Aug. 7– not Aug. 10.
Harris said he would be willing to pay for damages if he was responsible for causing them — but he wanted proof. Instead, he believes that E-Z Rent-A-Car falsified the second damage report by changing the date of loss.
In the terms and conditions of E-Z Rent-A-Car, it does not clearly state what procedures are followed when a vehicle is damaged. Its policies can be found on its site.
“I’m not willing to just roll over and pay for something when it’s clearly a fraudulent claim,” he told our advocates. “In this situation, it’s not the dollar amount that is significant, it’s the fact that I can easily see E-Z Rent-A-Car doing the same thing to others.”
The desired resolution, according to Harris, is to have E-Z Rent-A-Car drop the fraudulent claim.
This is not the first time a rental car company has tried to charge a customer for damages that occurred either before or after the vehicle was rented. When a rental vehicle is returned, the agent should inspect it and sign off if there are no damages. However, not all rental agencies take the time to do this immediately upon the vehicle’s return. The list is long when it comes to complaints from consumers who have received notices after the fact that they owed money for damages.
What can be done to prevent this from happening?
Before driving off the lot, inspect the vehicle and take pictures or a video. Zoom in on any dents or dings and note any damages on the contract before signing.
To reduce financial risk, make sure the rental vehicle has the necessary insurance. Review your auto policy, since most policies cover rentals. However, keep in mind that whatever coverage you have on your personal vehicle will be the coverage you will receive on a rental. If you do not have collision or comprehensive insurance, then your rental will not either.
Without proper insurance, you could end up paying for costly repairs and/or vehicle replacement, as well as “loss of use” charges, if the car is severely damaged or totaled.
Most credit card companies offer car rental insurance if you use the card for payment. Find out if the coverage is primary or secondary and exactly what is covered.
In the situation with Harris, without all the facts, it is difficult to determine if E-Z Rent-A-Car was being deceptive or if an error had occurred. If it was indeed an error, then one hopes that E-Z Rent-A-Car will be more diligent in dealing with its customers in the future.
Harris could have paid the $125 rather than going through the hassle of fighting it. However, if consumers do not question companies on possible fraudulent or negligent behavior, then those companies may continue to take advantage of them. Companies have the right to institute policies to protect against losses, but it should not be at the expense of good customer service.
This is where Elliott.org takes a stand. We provide the support and the tools necessary to negotiate intelligently in order to protect the rights of the consumer.
As Martin Luther King once said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” But what is right?