I didn’t activate my E-ZPass on my Budget rental, so why am I being charged for it?

Although Peggy Kroll does not authorize automatic toll payment service on her Budget rental, she is charged a “convenience fee” by Budget for E-ZPass service in New York and New Jersey. Can our advocates persuade Budget to reverse the fee?

Question: I recently traveled to New York and New Jersey, where I rented a car from Budget. The car had an E-ZPass, but I neither requested nor activated it as I intended to pay all my tolls in cash during this trip. The one exception was a toll of $17 at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which was to be charged to my American Express card.

While I was driving on the New Jersey Turnpike, I exited and drove to the cash booth to pay the toll, where the toll clerk told me that the toll of $3 already had been paid through the E-ZPass. But the E-ZPass was still in the “closed” position.

My American Express card was charged $40 in tolls. When I contacted Budget to question the charge, I was told that $20 of the charge was a “convenience fee” for the E-ZPass. Budget acknowledged that it failed to disclose this fee to me but refused to reverse the charge. It offered only a $20 coupon, valid for one year only, for a future rental.

Can you help get Budget to issue me a cash refund of the convenience fee? This is not about the money. Even though $20 is a small amount, I am opposed on principle to being charged an undisclosed fee for a service that I did not authorize. I was not “convenienced” in any way by the presence of an E-ZPass in my rental car. Nor do I intend to rent again from Budget. — Peggy Kroll, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Answer: How annoying — even though you had not activated the E-ZPass in your car, Budget charged you for it anyway without disclosing the fee to you in advance.

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Although Budget provides E-ZPass service as part of its e-toll program, you didn’t purchase it. You paid four tolls in cash before learning from a toll booth attendant that the E-ZPass had paid a toll. It isn’t clear how or why the E-ZPass became activated at the fifth toll, since up to that point of your trip it was not paying tolls.

But however “convenient” it might be to Budget to enable its renters to pay tolls with E-ZPasses and transponders, Budget should not have charged you any fees, including a convenience fee of any amount, without your specific authorization. That wasn’t “convenient” to you at all.

And when you told Budget that you didn’t authorize the charge, its personnel should have reversed the fee rather than offering you a $20 coupon that’s good for only one year.

Our advocates agree with you that no company should charge you any fee without full disclosure. And we take cases of undisclosed and unauthorized charges on principle, regardless of the amount. As far as we’re concerned, no consumer should be charged any amount — no matter how large or small — without their specific knowledge and consent.

You might have used our contact information to appeal Budget’s decision not to reimburse you in cash to higher-ranking executives at Budget, but you asked our advocates for assistance.

We reached out to Avis Budget Group (the parent company of Budget) on your behalf. You have notified us that Avis Budget has agreed to refund you the $20 charge.

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org.

  • Joe Blasi

    San Francisco is Suining rent a car places over BS like this! not only that they change you the full cash rate but only remit the ETC rate to the toll system.

  • Dan

    The rental car toll processing business is right up there with debt collectors as far as scummy business practices are concerned. They have your CC info and the rental contract you sign gives them permission to charge you so they never bother to have good customer service. They have you by the proverbial …..

  • Noah Kimmel

    I would argue states are at fault too as few make it easy to go online and pay by license plate. With more unmanned / transponder only tolls, this problem is only made worse

  • Bill___A

    The whole rental car / toll road setup is flawed. From what I have seen, even one sole visit to a toll road triggers a daily charge for each and every day of the rental. If the car rental companies made even a reasonable effort to make this setup fair, people like me would not object to it so much. As it stands, when I rent a car in Houston and go out of town, I end up bypassing the toll road so I don’t get charged the fee every day and see the bill a month later.

  • Travelnut

    I would love a universal toll tag, or more cooperation between the various jurisdictions that they will accept each other’s users. I purchased a TxTag thinking it would work on any toll road in Texas (there are no toll roads in my city, it is for my convenience when I go out of town). I was pretty irritated to get a ticket from Harris County for driving on toll roads in Houston. At the very least, I had thought they would just bill me based on my license plate, but nope and they charged me some outrageous fees.

  • Bill___A

    Yes, there should be a central transponder authority for tolls. There should also be a central smart card for transit/commuter systems. The back end is something that can be handled in a standard way for a certain cost, and all of the various agencies and entities could deduct the fares they need. This is altogether too sensible to be implemented unfortunately. Even for loyalty programs (an Elliott favorite I know!) there could be one card number. Hilton, for example could be restricted to querying the Marriott the Marriott component, Day’s Inn, the Day’s inn component etc. But alas, we have to carry multiple transponders, multiple transit cards (if we use different jurisdictions), and multiple loyalty cards. It would also be beneficial if there were one mobile phone network operator that covered the whole country and various mobile companies operated virtually on them. I know that leaves single points of failure. But where I live, we have one electrical transmission system for multiple electrical providers. Check out Freeview television in the UK, one set of transmitters for many channels…..it can happen. Just take the comment platform, for example……

  • Joe Blasi

    1. No calling it EZ / E-ZX anything if you don’t take E-Zpass. yes there are EZ TAGs lanes that don’t take E-Zpass (e-zpass had a lot of names for each local system in the past)

    2. a fee waver for people stuck in a compatible within hubs mess.
    Right now Quick Pass works with EZ-pass / Georgia’s Peach Pass and sun pass.

    Georgia’s Peach Pass works with NC Quick Pass and sun pass

    Sun pass works with NC Quick Pass and Georgia’s Peach Pass.

    Georgia’s Peach Pass lanes take e-zpass

    Some can see a sing saying Georgia’s Peach Pass takes E-zpass and then a sign saying sun pass takes Georgia’s Peach Pass and people will think that e-zpass = Georgia’s Peach Pass and rack up a lot of fines. the same thing for Georgia’s Peach Pass takes sun pass and then E-zpass takes Georgia’s Peach Pass

    also more common rules at lest for ETC only places for non tags right now you have
    tag or pay line (higher toll rate and high usage may give you an added fine)
    tag or pay line (fine rate higher if mailed)
    tag or bill by mail (higher rate + small admin fees)
    tag or bill by mail (same rate + big admin fees)
    prepay online or tag (fine if no pre pay)

  • Joe Blasi

    I think driving thought a toll with say 6-9 tags to cover all of NA may give you an miss read and maybe an V-toll fee.

  • KanExplore

    I’m not usually one to see government regulation / legislation as a solution to everything, but this one seems ripe for it. It’s a ripoff or outright fraud. Congratulations to the writer for persisting and to you for helping out. But one solution for one person isn’t the needed result. This activity needs to end.

    As an aside, “convenience” fee is tantamount to “we’re ripping you off” fee. It is always “convenient” strictly to the bottom line of those imposing it.

  • The Original Joe S

    Always photograph the contract. Run the video and discuss the contract with the vendor. Charge back if they don’t credit you within 24 hours.

  • wilcoxon

    The closest to a universal transponder is EZ-Pass (iPass is close and has sharing arrangement with EZ-Pass but will not cover a few things EZ-Pass does). However, that definitely isn’t universal (the tolls nearest my house only work on a proprietary transponder that only works for those tolls).

  • cscasi

    I can empathize with you. However, as has been said here many times before on varying cases, the person making the purchase has the responsibility to ensure he/she knows what the rules concerning what was purchased. In your case, where the TxTag is valid. I am certain when you got one, there was most likely a little booklet that explained about the tg and most likely, where it could be used. If not, then one should go online and look at the website. If it is not explained there, you would have to call and ask questions.
    That being said, I agree with you about having various jurisdictions accept others toll tags. But, therein lies a problem; payment. Then, a whole system has to be set up so that the out of area toll tag charges can be sorted out and a mechanism put in place to bill the other toll tag authority to pay the authority where the tag was used. Also, the system would have to know whether the toll tags are valid or not. Based on just these things, I can see why a lot of these do not allow tags from other jurisdictions to be used. But, perhaps some day.

  • jsn55

    I just LOVE this wonderful new way that rental car companies can pad their bottom line. I’ll bet that 75% of these bogus charges are never questioned by the customer. Seems like the only way to stay out of this latest rental car scam is to not drive on toll roads in a rental car. Ridiculous.

  • joycexyz

    When someone tells you something “is for your convenience,” you can be sure the convenience is for them, not you. Akin to “for your safety, security, protection…” Any of them is going to cost you or be just plain annoying.

  • jsn55

    All this scattering of toll passes and rental car fees for tolls in 1700 jurisdictions is quite ridiculous. This is 2017, boys and girls, get the system set up so we can have ONE toll pass tag good everywhere.

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