AVIS/CITI CARD - Faulty Car, Taxes on Fees, Endless Dispute

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Dec 9, 2019
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Our complaint is with CITI CARD. I am a platinum card member and have been a Citi card holder for over 26 years but currently have an open and long-running dispute with Citi, who are charging us $772.84 on behalf of Avis for fees and taxes on a rental car of theirs which broke down. During a trip to Mexico in July, my husband and I were given a rental car with a faulty transmission. It was not obvious at first, and in fact was not obvious until we were about 70 miles from the Huatulco airport, where Avis has a rental car kiosk. We attempted to call Avis but could not get through. Since the car was drivable, we kept it for the balance of our 6-day vacation. On July 8th, when we were returning to the Huatulco airport, we encountered a speed-bump. We went over it gently, but nevertheless, the car broke down. In fact the transmission dropped only 9 miles from the airport. Avis billed us for the repairs, which Citi Benefits covered, but they did not cover an exorbitant towing charges ("Crane service" as the merchant described it), nor multiple taxes and fees (and taxes on fees) for the repairs and the towing, despite Citi's information clearly laying out that such services (incidentals) are covered in their benefits summary.

This dispute has been ongoing for roughly SIX MONTHS now, with Citi repeatedly asking us to provide evidence that we were billed more than we were expected to be, which we have sent in multiple times to no effect. Most recently Citi has asked for a credit slip from Avis, which we did not and could not have received because the merchant still refuses to take any responsibility.

Despite the open dispute, Citi has put the $772.84 charge back on our bill, with a due date that would result in late fees and exorbitant interest on top if the full balance (including the $772.84) is not paid before the dispute is adequately resolved.

We wish for an end to this dispute once and for all, with the the $772.84 removed from the bill immediately and Citi fulfilling the terms of their benefits.
 
Dec 9, 2019
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We've already escalated the heck out of this thing but seem to have maybe hit a wall...and Citi is insisting that we now pay the disputed amount. The dispute is in a very schizophrenic place--the dispute is ongoing but the billing department doesn't seem to recognize that.
 

smd

Mar 14, 2018
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This is complicated and there's really not enough information in your post to understand exactly what's going on. If I understand correctly, though, you filed a credit card dispute on Avis damage claims because you believe Citi's rental insurance should have paid them. That's not going to work, as I believe you found out.

You are dealing with 3 different contracts in this dispute and you have independent rights and obligations to each one.
  1. You owe Avis for any damage you caused to their car (including repairs, towing, admin costs, etc.) This is governed by your rental agreement with Avis. If you don't agree with the amount of those damages (because they were pre-existing or because the charges are excessive), you need to negotiate them with Avis. Here's a thread that discusses how to do this.

  2. If you can't agree with Avis on the damages you owe under the rental contract, you can tell Citi that the charges were not authorized. If you substantiate that, Citi will reverse the payment. This is why Citi was asking you to justify what you thought the charges should have been under the contract. It sounds like they didn't feel your justification was adequate. (Note that even if they do reverse the payment, Avis can still attempt to collect the damages directly from you.)

  3. You have an insurance policy to cover rental damages. Citi has likely contracted with an insurance company to provide this. Your coverage depends on the terms of the policy and may or may not fully cover the charges from Avis. If you disagree with the amount they have paid, you need to negotiate with the insurance policy. You can't refuse to pay either Citi or Avis as a result of this dispute.
My guess from your post is that you've escalated with the Citi credit card, when really your dispute is with Avis and the insurance company. I suggest you focus your escalation with those companies.
 
Dec 9, 2019
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Thank you, smd, for your thoughtful comments.

I would like to clarify a few points. We did not take out insurance beyond CitiCard car insurance (n.b. Citi has stopped offering this benefit as of 9/22/19, but at the time of this rental, it was in force).

Citi *did* pay for the damages to the car. The original bill was ~$1900 USD. Additionally, Citi has been adjudicating the dispute and, in fact, have just opened a 15-day investigation (their language) as of 3 days ago. Further, we are dealing with Avis In Mexico--quite different from Avis/US; specifically, we have been dealing with the operator of the Avis franchise at the Huatulco airport, whom we have known for a few years. He says that he would like to help us and is "appalled" at Citi's behavior, but his hands are tied by corporate.

The rental insurance that Citi was offering was supposed to cover towing and "incidental" expenses associated with the rental--this, according to their online description of benefits.

The urgent problem here is that we are 3 days into a 15-day investigation and Citi is now insisting that we pay the $772 USD for towing and incidentals BEFORE THE INVESTIGATORS REACH THEIR CONCLUSION. Again, the $772 is for towing and for fees and taxes (and fees on taxes and taxes on fees), including the already-taxed repairs to the car.

Any and all insight appreciated.

Many thanks.
 

smd

Mar 14, 2018
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965
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Thank you, smd, for your thoughtful comments.

I would like to clarify a few points. We did not take out insurance beyond CitiCard car insurance (n.b. Citi has stopped offering this benefit as of 9/22/19, but at the time of this rental, it was in force).

Citi *did* pay for the damages to the car. The original bill was ~$1900 USD. Additionally, Citi has been adjudicating the dispute and, in fact, have just opened a 15-day investigation (their language) as of 3 days ago. Further, we are dealing with Avis In Mexico--quite different from Avis/US; specifically, we have been dealing with the operator of the Avis franchise at the Huatulco airport, whom we have known for a few years. He says that he would like to help us and is "appalled" at Citi's behavior, but his hands are tied by corporate.

The rental insurance that Citi was offering was supposed to cover towing and "incidental" expenses associated with the rental--this, according to their online description of benefits.

The urgent problem here is that we are 3 days into a 15-day investigation and Citi is now insisting that we pay the $772 USD for towing and incidentals BEFORE THE INVESTIGATORS REACH THEIR CONCLUSION. Again, the $772 is for towing and for fees and taxes (and fees on taxes and taxes on fees), including the already-taxed repairs to the car.

Any and all insight appreciated.

Many thanks.
I still find this confusing. Are you saying that:

1) The $772 charge from Avis Huatulco is legitimate and you believe the insurance company should cover it?​
or 2) The $772 charge from Avis Huatulco is fraudulent and shouldn't be paid (by either you or the insurance)?​
 
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Jun 24, 2019
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Look to see if the Citi policy says it will indemnify you, i.e., refund what you pay to Avis. That doesn't mean that Citi can't negotiate with Avis. Most insurance we are familiar with only requires you to be liable for damages, not that you must first pay them, but perhaps the Citi policy, deep in the fine print, says so.
 
May 30, 2019
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I read the thread twice & I'm still confused. From who is the $772 charge -- Avis, a towing company, something else? If may help if the OP took a step back and explained such things as: when was the rental, where, what charges were made, what was paid & when, what is the nature of the current charge?

If the OP typically carries a balance on the card, then the reposting of the charge may result in retroactive finance charges if considered valid. The OP should also check the cardholder agreement.
 
Dec 9, 2019
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I still find this confusing. Are you saying that:

1) The $772 charge from Avis Huatulco is legitimate and you believe the insurance company should cover it?​
or 2) The $772 charge from Avis Huatulco is fraudulent and shouldn't be paid (by either you or the insurance)?​
Both these things are true. Let me explain:

I still find this confusing. Are you saying that:

1) The $772 charge from Avis Huatulco is legitimate and you believe the insurance company should cover it?​
or 2) The $772 charge from Avis Huatulco is fraudulent and shouldn't be paid (by either you or the insurance)?​
Both these things are true. Let me explain:
1) The charge is most certainly not legitimate but if it must be paid, it should be paid by the insurance company (Citi)
2) The charge should not be paid, in my opinion, and should not be paid, but if it must be paid in order for me to get on with my life, then pls see #1 above.
 
Dec 9, 2019
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I read the thread twice & I'm still confused. From who is the $772 charge -- Avis, a towing company, something else? If may help if the OP took a step back and explained such things as: when was the rental, where, what charges were made, what was paid & when, what is the nature of the current charge?

If the OP typically carries a balance on the card, then the reposting of the charge may result in retroactive finance charges if considered valid. The OP should also check the cardholder agreement.
The charge is "owed" to Avis. They allegedly paid ~$250 USD for towing charges (a difficult-to-believe exorbitant charge for non-metro Mexico) and the balance is for fees on the charges for damages (already paid), taxes on the fees for damages (already paid once) and then fees on the taxes. I know this sounds ludicrous, because it is, but that is what's happening here. And there are taxes+fees+taxes on the towing charges, as well.
 
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Neil Maley

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These charges can be negotiated but it’s up to you to do the negotiating with Avis. These are admin fees and likeky not covered by your credit card insurance.

We have a thread on how to fight these:
https://forum.elliott.org/threads/how-to-deal-with-a-car-rental-damage-claim.9703/

In the future- as soon as you realize there is a problem with a car rental- go to the nearest office for the company and take the car back. By continuing to drive it, you are saying it’s acceptable to you in the condition it was in- and with something like this happens, they come right back to the renter.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Dec 27, 2014
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The charge is "owed" to Avis. They allegedly paid ~$250 USD for towing charges (a difficult-to-believe exorbitant charge for non-metro Mexico) and the balance is for fees on the charges for damages (already paid), taxes on the fees for damages (already paid once) and then fees on the taxes. I know this sounds ludicrous, because it is, but that is what's happening here. And there are taxes+fees+taxes on the towing charges, as well.
$250 is not an exhorbitant amount where I live.
 
Dec 9, 2019
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$250 is not an exhorbitant amount where I live.
Not where I live either in Los Angeles, but on the Oaxacan coast of Mexico, it most certainly is--we have spent a lot of time in the area. What isn't typical though are the fees+taxes+fees on taxes on top of the towing charge.
 

smd

Mar 14, 2018
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965
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Both these things are true. Let me explain:
1) The charge is most certainly not legitimate but if it must be paid, it should be paid by the insurance company (Citi)
2) The charge should not be paid, in my opinion, and should not be paid, but if it must be paid in order for me to get on with my life, then pls see #1 above.

And this is the problem.

The insurance company is only obligated to pay legitimate charges covered under its policy. If you tell an insurance company either of the things you said in your note, they will not pay. Their decision is independent from Citi's decision on whether the charges are authorized (even though Citi purchased the insurance for you).

There are two possibilities/courses of action:

1) The charges are not valid under the terms of your contract with Avis: Challenge the charges with Avis. Dispute the charge with Citi and demonstrate why the charges are not authorized.

2) The charges are valid under the terms of your contract with Avis. Pay your credit card bill and submit them to the insurance. Demonstrate that the charges are for things covered under your policy.
 
Dec 9, 2019
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I've been re-reading the above responses on this thread, and the content here has inspired a somewhat philosophical question for me: Is a credit card merely a consumer convenience so that we don't need to walk around with bundles of cash and personal checks? Or, stay with me here, should a credit card company relationship with the consumer take on an element of advocacy? When the consumer pays $95/year, is that simply for the convenience or should it mean that the CC company has taken on the mantle of advocacy? Should the CC company offer its best customers--in my case, platinum card holder--an actual service beyond being the middleman for payments? In any case, Citi has been adjudicating my case (their verbiage, not mine), so it would appear that they're willing to take some responsibility for resolving the problem, which I believe is how it should be. The problem is that at this, the 11th hour, they seem to be abdicating.
 

Neil Maley

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The issue is the offer minimal insurance for things like this and your contract with Avis spells out what you agree to by renting the car and what responsibility you have. The credit card insurance paid the damages but most do not cover all this extra fees.
 
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Neil Maley

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If you had purchased the car companies insurance, you most likely wouldn’t be dealing with these fees.

This is what Avis’s rental agreement says about damages:

Damage to/Loss of the Car. If you do not accept Loss Damage Waiver, or if the car is lost or damaged as a direct or indirect result of a violation of paragraph 14, or damaged as a result of an act of nature, you are responsible and you will pay us for all loss of or damage to the car regardless of cause, or who, or what caused it. If the car is damaged, you will pay our estimated repair cost, or if, in our sole discretion, we determine to sell the car in its damaged condition, you will pay the difference between the car’s retail fair market value before it was damaged and the sale proceeds, except in Canada or as otherwise required by law. In Canada, you will pay the greater of the car's retail fair market value or its value on our books of account (also known as depreciated book value) before theft or, in the case of damage, the sales proceeds. Depreciated book value may be higher than retail fair market value. Where permitted by law, you authorize us to charge you for the actual cost of repair or replacement of lost or damaged items such as glass, mirrors, tires, and antenna, as part of your rental charges at the time of return. If the car is stolen and not recovered you will pay us the car’s fair market value before it was stolen. As part of our loss, you’ll also pay for loss of use of the car, without regard to our fleet utilization, plus an administrative fee, plus towing and storage charges, if any (“Incidental Loss”). If your responsibility is covered by any insurance, credit card benefit, travel insurance or such other insurance or benefits, you authorize us to contact the benefit provider directly on your behalf and you assign all of your benefits directly to us to recover all consequential and incidental damages, including but not limited to the repairs of the car plus diminished value or the fair market retail value of the car (less salvage value plus costs incurred in the salvage-sale), and all Incidental Loss and administrative fees. If we collect our loss from a third party after we have collected our loss from you, we will refund the difference, if any, between what you paid us and what we collected from the third party. If the law of a jurisdiction covering this rental requires conditions on LDW that are different than the terms of the Rental Agreement, such as if your liability for ordinary negligence is limited by such law, that law prevails. You understand that you are not authorized to repair or have the car repaired without our express prior written consent. If you repair or have the car repaired without our consent, you will pay the estimated cost to restore the car to the condition it was in prior to your rental. If we authorize you to have the car repaired and the cost of repair is our responsibility, we will reimburse you for those repairs only if you give us the repair receipt.