Did we neglect to mention the $651 drop-off fee?

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By Christopher Elliott

Jack Schneider thought the $430 rate for his European car rental from Hertz covered everything.

And it did. Except for one teensy surcharge: the $651 “drop off” fee that wasn’t included in the non-refundable, non-negotiable rate he’d paid Hotwire.

Oops.

Fee fiasco

That’s right, he booked the car through Hotwire, which means the sale is final. But should Hotwire have disclosed the drop-off fee, too?

Hotwire offers conflicting information on its site. On one hand, it says you’re allowed to drop off your car at a different location, although there’s no indication about a possible fee.

Its terms and conditions, however, say you have to pick up and drop off the cars at the same location, whether it’s a so-called “opaque” or “hot” rate, or a conventional booking. (Here’s our guide to renting a car.)

“When I picked up the car, Hertz told me there was an additional drop-off fee of $651, plus tax,” he says. “My credit card was billed an additional $774, which I want back from Hotwire, as it was their mistake. So far, after a month, they are ignoring me.” (Related: What to do when things go “awry” with your Hotwire booking.)

Well, I might get involved in this case just to get an answer from Hotwire — or Hertz. (And this case is worth covering if for no other reason than that it’s an important cautionary tale.)

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands includes CheapOair and OneTravel. We are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

But this raises a much bigger question: Are third parties like travel agents responsible for disclosing any potential fees? The only exclusion Hotwire mentions is that “The amount you are charged by Hotwire may not include mandatory tax and insurance charges required for certain international rentals, which you will pay directly to the rental car company.”

Otherwise, Hotwire’s opaque rates are supposed to include everything.

Fee disclosures

Last month, Expedia announced that it would start disclosing baggage fees for airlines — a good first step. Unfortunately, that’s all you can do. You still can’t pay for the fees online, which is referred to in the business as “transactability.” Great for airlines, not so great for online agencies.

Technically, and perhaps even legally, there’s nothing to prevent a company from asking for more money even after you’ve made a purchase.

The drop-off fee is known to frequent car renters, and it should have been disclosed to Schneider. There are ways around it, but it requires some advance planning, as we mention in our frequent questions about car rentals.

I’ve asked Schneider for details about his rental, including the correspondence between him, Hotwire and Hertz. If it turns out that he was, indeed, broadsided by a drop-off fee, I’m inclined to go get ’em.

Should I advocate for Jack Schneider?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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