Dollar charged me twice for insurance after I said no

By | December 11th, 2016

Marilina Santoro’s case presents a stark reminder: Before you sign a car rental agreement, review it carefully to make sure you’re not being charged for any unwanted optional extras.

When Dollar’s agent asked Santoro if she wanted insurance coverage, she replied “No.” So why did charges for two types of additional coverage show up on her bill?

On June 14, Santoro rented a Jeep Compass from Dollar Rent A Car at the Atlanta airport. When the rental agent asked her if she wanted to include the insurance coverage for the car, Santoro said “No.” Unfortunately, she was in a hurry to get to her destination and did not look at the contract before signing it and accepting the car. The agreement showed an additional Liability Insurance Supplement and Uninsured Motorist coverage. Together, those two additional insurance options added $168 to her final bill. Now she wants Dollar to refund those insurance charges.

No one likes unpleasant surprises in the form of unexpected charges on a bill. That is especially so when you believe those charges are not justified. But Santoro’s signature on the rental agreement carries more weight with the car rental company than what she remembers saying to their rental agent.

She phoned Dollar but got nowhere. Then she emailed customer relations at Hertz using the company contacts information on our site. (Hertz is Dollar’s parent company.) Writing to them got Santoro a written reply, but not the refund she hoped for.

The letter said in part:

I certainly regret any misunderstanding regarding the charges billed. I have reviewed all of the charges billed on your rental invoice and have concluded the billing for this rental is correct based on the rate and options you accepted at the time of rental. A copy of the signed rental agreement has been provided for your review.

Santoro is not happy that the letter from Hertz does not mention her claim that she verbally declined the coverage. However, Hertz can only review what’s in writing, which is the signed rental agreement.

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We did reach out to Dollar as a follow-up, but haven’t heard back from Santoro about whether the insurance charges were refunded.

The additional insurance and damage waiver coverages that rental car companies offer are just that, optional offers. They are not requirements. If you are sure your personal insurance and/or credit card provide you with the additional protection you might need in case of damage to the rental car or other loss, then you can decline the coverage. Car rental agreements generally have separate lines that you initial to indicate that you are declining their optional insurance coverage. It only takes a moment to look at those lines and write your initials on the agreement. Otherwise, those charges could show up on your final bill.

I’m sure most of us have been in situations where we have been in a hurry to get into our rental car and out of the airport. The small amount of time you save by not reviewing the rental agreement can cost you – as Santoro found out.

Should Dollar refund Marilina Santoro’s insurance charges?

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  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    A case of an agent trying to make their upselling numbers for the week

  • Bill___A

    I can understand having to get out of the car quickly to catch a flight when you are dropping off the car. However, being “so much in a hurry” on the way out that you can’t take the 20 seconds it would take (and yes, it IS 20 seconds) so that you don’t catch a mistake the agent made is simply not doing your part. Signing a contract means reading a contract. Yes, if the agent made a mistake, that is very bad, but these guys OFTEN make mistakes which means you ALWAYS have to read before you sign. Morally, Dollar owes the money, but the OP should read before signing. The “in a hurry” excuse doesn’t do it for me.

  • AJPeabody

    It takes about one minute to review the accept/decline boxes on a rental car contract before signing it. I shudder to calculate the hourly cost of $168 per minute.

    And, since anyone who buys insurance and then has no need for it at the return could claim falsely a verbal refusal of insurance, no car rental company can survive a refund policy based on verbal statements.

  • Jeff W.

    She said no, but signed yes. So it is very difficult to be sympathetic when all she needed to do is look at what she was signing.

    This is where being part of the a frequent rental program is worth it. Not for the points or free rentals — because these programs are not that generous if you do not rent many times a year. It is because your account profile saves all of your preferences — including the automatic decline of optional services. And in many cases, you do not need to see an agent — just go to the car. No chance for an upsell.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Though I wish the fees were written in large, clear font, and unambiguous, unfortunately, I agree with the other commenters. These fees usually require a separate initial, so you do need to read the contract before signing a little bit.

  • polexia_rogue

    I always take the insurance (there was one time when it really paid off) so enterprise makes me sign in at least 4 different places.

    if you’re in too much of a hurry. tough. they have a paper trail you don’t

  • taxed2themax

    I think we’d all like to believe her…. and there (for me at least) is nothing written that makes me believe that the situation didn’t happen as she claims… but… the evidence (such that it is reported) says otherwise.. and that evidence is much more compelling that a he-said, she-said case..
    I also think that even IF she was too busy/in a rush to check what she signed.. there was time after — like later that day/night, to review the receipt and discover the charge.. I’d be a lot more empathetic if the error was caught, say a few hours after leaving, than I am with a claim this late in the scenario.

    What I do personally believe? I believe she said no.. but I think somewhere between what she said, and what happened, something went bad.. Now, do I also think this was a deliberate intent on the rental agency to mark accept when the agent knew it was no? No, I don’t… but…. I do cede that the rental agency has a financial stake in the outcome, because they profit from an ‘accept’ answer — which coincidentally, the renter does too by claiming a ‘decline’ answer .. So, both parties have something to gain, or loose here.. depending on their position..

    Therefore, so long as the receipt is legitimate (it was not altered post-signature, etc) then I have no choice but to go with what the independently verifiable evidence tells me happened. Also, because I can’t see a credible case that tells me on the balance of probabilities she said decline and not accept, but they still printed it with accept — or vice versa.. both scenarios, to me, are equally plausible… so I go with the paper.

  • taxed2themax

    That very well could be true.. but.. could it not also be true that the renter’s version of events is not wholly accurate as well.. These kinds of cases leave me with pause because both sides have a financial stake in the outcome.. The rental agent *may* have made his/her “quota” (if in fact such existed here)… and the renter may now able be claiming for a refund of a service that was already provided.

    I don’t know who said what to who.. but what I do know (based on what’s reported here) what can be proven — and for me, that’s a key part — is the paperwork… and that says “accept”

  • BubbaJoe123

    In a debate between what she claimed she said, and what she signed, what she signed is going to win.

  • cscasi

    I agree with your “morally”, but only if she actually did tell the agent twice that she did not want the insurance. Still, it is her responsibility to make sure the rental contract is in order before she signs it’ something she obviously did NOT do.

  • jim6555

    It seems that the number of incidents involving Dollar and Thrifty being discussed here have greatly increased since Hertz bought the two companies. I wonder if the reason for this is that Hertz is putting greater pressure on Dollar/Thrifty Managers to produce more revenue?

  • Mel65

    Here is my very cynical problem with these types of complaints: the customer “ate the steak” meaning she used the car WITH the coverage, and had she had an accident, I am sure she’d have used the coverage to pay for it. But after returning it and fortunately not needing it, wanting reimbursement becomes muddy. If rental places routinely refunded insurance coverage, I could totally see people accepting the coverage and then after returning the vehicle and wiping their brown saying “oh hey by the way I noticed I got insurance added that I didn’t want/refused,” and how does one prove one way or the other? The ONLY time to dispute this is at the counter. Also, as an aside, I really hate the “I was in a hurry to get to my destination so I couldn’t be bothered to read the LEGALLY BINDING piece of paper in front of me” excuse.

  • joycexyz

    Agreed. Another cautionary tale—always read the contract. It’s worth the few minutes it may take to avoid any misunderstandings. After all, the only thing that counts is what the contract says.

  • Michael__K

    Not if she already had coverage on her own.

    If it’s a steak I suppose one could eat 2 steaks, but you can’t claim reimbursement for the same damage twice from 2 different insurers.

  • BubbaJoe123

    But you could use the car company’s coverage, and not have to inform your insurer (and have your rates go up).

  • Michael__K

    Or you could use primary credit card coverage…

  • BubbaJoe123

    True, and that would cover you for damage to the rental vehicle. Doesn’t help if you’re at fault in an accident with damage to other vehicles or people, though.

  • Randy Culpepper

    “Unfortunately, she was in a hurry to get to her destination and did not look at the contract before signing it and accepting the car.”

    I just don’t understand how this happens.

  • taxed2themax

    I do understand.. but.. that then does not mean her case becomes compelling or that it’s correct.. I get it, she’s in a rush.. I think we’ve *all* be there before.. but.. there are times where you just have to slow down and take those extra seconds/minutes to double check what’s going on.. and if, for any/some reason you don’t… well… then you “own” the outcome..
    Harsh? yes.. but I think it’s fair and speaks to accountability.. Where I might be more inclined to see this case different is IF there was some reasonably support claim that the rental agency somehow intentionally rushed to sign, obscured the part where accept was printed, or something like that.. then I might see this differently.. but there is no such claim here..

    only she rushed and overlooked the accept/decline part.

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