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. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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