Sharon Shaw rented a car from Hertz while she was visiting Sardinia last summer. She wishes she hadn’t.
A few days after picking up the manual-transmission vehicle, its transmission broke down, and she had to call Hertz for a tow. “Hertz is claiming that they are owed charges for repair of the clutch and for towing charges related to failure of the vehicle’s clutch,” she says.
Here’s where things get interesting. She had Hertz protection, but the company argues it isn’t valid. “Hertz is arguing there is a breach in the terms of my rental agreement,” she says, voiding her “super coverage.”
You know, a case like this really makes me question everything I’ve ever written about insurance and car rental “protection.” But I’ll get to the soul-searching in just a minute.
Shaw’s clutch failed on a mountain road, and when she phoned Hertz, a representative assured her there’s be “no issues” since she had purchased its super-inclusive “protection,” which cost almost as much as the rental itself.
She protested the charges in writing, to which Hertz responded:
I forwarded the information contained in your media question to the First Notice of Loss Department (FNOL) in Italy for review. Hertz Italy feels quite strongly that the car was returned with damage.
Hertz Italy has verified that the collections attempts for the damage will continue and there will be no refund issued.
Ms. Shaw, this is not the email that I had hoped to send to you this afternoon, however, I do hope that you can understand our position in this matter.
Here’s where things get interesting.
Shaw disputed her credit card charges. Hertz promptly added her to its Do Not Rent list, which means she can’t rent a car from the company anymore. Ah, but that doesn’t mean she can’t book a car.
Fast-forward to this spring, when she tried to rent a car from Thrifty through a third party, CarTrawler. The booking went through, and Shaw was unaware that Thrifty is owned by Hertz, so she didn’t suspect that anything would happen with her rental.
But something did happen.
“I had prepaid about $109 for the car with an remaining balance of $40 to be paid after picking up the car,” she says. “Unbeknownst to me, Thrifty is a affiliate of Hertz, therefore, I was blocked from renting the car.”
She asked CarTrawler for a refund and it sent her this:
I am sorry to hear that you were unable to use your car hire booking with Thrifty USA reserved through CarTrawler.
As you have cancelled your booking after the pickup time, we are unable to offer you a full refund regarding this rental.
I have however, proposed a refund of 44.70 USD to our Finance Department.
This is your placement fee minus an administration fee of 65.00 USD. In the unlikely event that the refund is not approved, I will contact you with further details.
I hope that this matter has been resolved to your satisfaction.
The “administrative” fee is just a nice way of saying CarTrawler wants its money one way or the other. Rip-off.
Our advocacy team contacted Hertz on Shaw’s behalf several times. Why, we wondered, would damage to the car that should have been covered under “super” coverage suddenly be a renter’s responsibility? And how could Hertz accept a reservation from her and then keep her money?
Car rental companies and travel insurance companies love to talk about the value of their products, and here you have protection that was verified by an employee and then turned down when the car was turned in. Something about this just doesn’t feel right.
I think we all understand that there are things that can void a rental agreement, such as driving recklessly or crossing a national border. But by Shaw’s account, she was doing neither. Hertz simply decided to throw away its expensive “protection” because it was convenient. And then it helped itself to some of her money when she made the mistake of renting again from one of its subsidiaries.
Lots of important lessons on this one. And sadly, a problem we’ve had to move into our “case dismissed” file.