The strange case of the driverless car rental

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By | February 26th, 2017

Michael German’s son rented a car through Orbitz, at Fox-Rent-a-Car in Mexico. Fox didn’t identify the driver of the car in its contract. And then it overcharged his son for insurance that didn’t even cover the driver. Can we help German with a refund?

Question: My son rented a car through Orbitz, from Fox in Mexico, for our holiday visit. The required amount of liability insurance was included in the rental rate. When we picked up the car at the airport, the Fox clerk demanded that my son buy their supplemental insurance at $12 per day.

I immediately called the Fox corporate office and was told that supplemental insurance is optional. I handed my phone to the clerk so she could speak to the corporate office. We spoke to the Fox clerk and corporate office in both English and Spanish, so there was no language barrier, and no confusion.

Then, the clerk said that they had to put a $2,500 hold on my son’s credit card if he didn’t purchase the supplemental insurance. My son didn’t have the ability to put a $2,500 hold on his credit card, so the clerk allowed me to put it on my card. It was clear that my son was the driver and paid for the rental with his credit card. And, that I was not a driver, but paid for the $2,500 hold. His card was processed for the rental cost and my card was processed for the insurance hold.

Yet, when the clerk handed my son back the new contract, it still included the liability insurance charge of $12 a day. Even though Fox had put a $2,500 damage hold on my card in lieu of buying supplemental insurance, they still charged my son for the supplemental insurance. The Fox clerk refused to waive the charge. It was take it, or leave without a car.

Under duress, we agreed to the $2,500 damage hold andthe supplemental insurance charge. We each only signed for the credit card charges. We didn’t sign anything else.

We got to the assigned car and found an unsigned contract in my name in the glove box. We tried calling Fox to get someone to at least put my son as an additional driver so the insurance he purchased would cover him, but no one answered. We called the 800 number and were told to deal with the airport rental office.

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I am disabled and cannot drive. I never signed a contract as the renter and driver of the car. My son was the renter and driver. My son purchased supplemental insurance that did not cover him because Fox identified me as the driver in an unsigned contract. I only agreed to the $2,500 damage hold to avoid my son’s supplemental insurance charge.

When we returned the car, we found that it was not in my name, and it wasn’t in my son’s name. My son wasn’t even listed as an additional driver. So, the insurance my son was forced to buy from Fox, the insurance he bought from Orbitz, and the insurance included with his credit card would not apply because the rental wasn’t in his name. But, I had still had a $2,500 damage deposit and Fox would make me fully responsible if anything had happened.

So, upon returning the car, we asked Fox for a receipt showing that there was no damage to the car. The Fox representative refused to acknowledge that there wasn’t any damage. And he made me sign a copy of the unsigned rental agreement. At first, I refused to sign it. But the representative said he would not accept the return of the car or release the hold on my credit card, unless I signed the contract upon return. I signed the contract and wrote the date next to my signature so it was clear that it was not previously signed.

Then, the copy of the contract Fox attached to the credit card receipt when I returned the car, was also not signed. When I asked the representative why it wasn’t signed, he showed me the “original” rental contract that they had on file. It had a signature on the bottom which was similar to mine, but not mine. I have arthritis and I sign very sloppy. This was very symmetrical and neat. Someone also printed my initials next to certain areas that apparently, needed to be initialed. If Fox had an “original” contract I signed upon renting the car, why did it refuse to accept the return of the car and refuse to release the credit hold, unless I signed a contract upon return of the vehicle?

If the rental had to be in my name because I was guaranteeing the $2,500 damage deposit, all Fox had to do was add my son as an additional driver so that we would be insured. They failed to do that which put me at great risk.

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A few days later, we happened to be at the airport and I saw the same Fox clerk we rented the car from. I asked her why she charged for optional insurance, especially after I paid the $2,500 deposit. She said Fox did that to everyone. I asked why the contract was in my name and unsigned, and she said it was a copy of what I signed and that’s all that is given to renters. When I asked about the contract that was shown to me when I returned the car, that had “my” signature, she interrupted me before I said the word “signature.” She said “that never happened, that never happened, that never happened.” I believe that they know they signed the contract for me and that is why they demanded I sign it again, upon the return of the car.

I called the Fox corporate office and they referred me to the Mexico location. I called Mexico and was told they would call me back within a few minutes. I didn’t hear from them. I called again and was told that there was no record of my previous call.

What they’ve done is criminal.

At this point, we would be happy with a refund to my son for the insurance that Fox made him buy, and for the $94 insurance that he bought from Orbitz. Can you help him obtain a refund?– Michael German, Lukeville, Ariz.

Answer: Wow! There is so much wrong here that it’s hard to decide where to begin.

If your son wasn’t legally required to purchase supplemental insurance, then he shouldn’t have been forced to at the rental counter. But Fox’s rental policies for Mexico disclose that if no optional supplemental insurance is purchased, the renter will have a $2,500 hold placed on their credit card. And, if minimal optional supplemental insurance is purchased, the renter will have a $800 hold placed on their credit card.

So your son was aware that there would be an additional charge for insurance, or a large credit hold. But, your son understandably thought that because he purchased optional supplemental insurance from Orbitz, that he would be covered in Mexico. He wasn’t. Orbitz credited the $94 insurance charge back to your son’s card, and issued a $75 credit for future use.

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The troubling part of your experience began when your son was billed for the minimal supplemental insurance, but the Fox clerk placed a $2,500 damage hold on your credit card, instead of an $800 damage hold. The next troubling part of your experience arose when the Fox clerk identified you as the driver, thereby jeopardizing insurance coverage for your son, the actual driver of the car.

When you discovered that Fox identified you as the driver instead of your son while picking up the car, you asked that your son be identified as an additional driver of the car so that he would have the benefit of the insurance coverage he was charged for. Yet Fox never did so.

When you returned the car, you discovered that the contract attached to the receipt didn’t identify any driver. So, you asked for proof of a signed rental contract, but Fox couldn’t produce a legitimate contract that you had signed. In fact, it produced a contract that had a signature, but not your signature. Plus, the Fox representative refused to accept the return of the car and release the damage hold unless you retroactively signed a rental contract.

Since when does a rental car customer sign the contract after the rental period ends? And, under the threat of refusing to accept the return of the car, and incurring more charges? My guess is when things within an organization are really, really, really wrong.

Even with so much going wrong, and you being directed back to the dysfunctional local facility for help, you tried to self-advocate for you and your son. You sought help from our help forums. Our forums are read by industry professionals who may be able to offer suggestions on how to handle a particular problem.

Our forum advisors confirmed that your concerns were valid, and suggested that you email Fox executives for assistance. We list company contacts information for executives of Fox on our website.

Our advocates contacted Fox on your behalf, and it agreed to refund the insurance charge billed to your son’s card because it did not correspond with the $2,500 damage deposit that you paid. You thanked us for our help and commented that “I think you’re beginning to realize this is like talking to a brick wall.”

We break down brick walls all the time.

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