If your car rental company accuses you of damaging one of its vehicles, does it have to prove it?
That’s the question Carol Ryznar came to us with recently after Alamo claimed that she returned her vehicle with damage.
Prove it, she said.
Actually, her credit card, which covers her rental, insisted.
“I have asked them for pictures of the damage,” she says. “I have also asked for a legible rental agreement in order to compare the VIN numbers. But they have not given me these things.”
Could we help?
Actually, yes. Our advocates furnished her with executive contacts for Alamo. She contacted them. They promised to send her the photos and other evidence.
So far, so good.
But there’s a bigger question. Does a car rental company have to provide any of these documents?
Alamo’s terms and conditions talk about your responsibility for compensating the company if you damage a car, but it doesn’t say anything about the kind of photos, receipts or other evidence it must provide you to substantiate the claim.
As a practical matter, car rental companies almost always send the photos and repair records. But not always.
European car rental companies have taken the lead in “paperless” claims, simply charging the credit cards of customers they believe have damaged their vehicles. Often, the amounts appear to be arbitrary, ending in two zeros. When pushed, the car rental companies say the figure includes “loss of use,” a controversial industry practice of billing renters for rental revenue they would have gotten if the car hadn’t been damaged.
So, to answer Ryznar’s second question: No. Alamo could have simply claimed its car had been damaged, sent her the bill, and been done with it.
I mean, the credit card issue is her problem, right? And she’s the one who damaged the car, right?
It’s hard to tell if “paperless” claims are corporate arrogance or incompetence. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
Normally, when a car rental company refuses to fork over the documents, it means there’s something wrong with records. Maybe the VIN number doesn’t match or the license plate is wrong. Could be the wrong car, too.
Anyway, I suspect Ryznar will find something in the paperwork that might reverse the claim. And if it doesn’t, we’re always here to help.