When in Rome (or Florence) don’t drive your Enterprise rental car in restricted areas

Driving in a new city frustrates many travelers, especially when navigating an unfamiliar, foreign location with strange rules. Larry Moyer learned just how frustrating when he drove his Enterprise rental car in Florence. Now he faces heavy rental car fines and he wants to know if he has to pay them. 

“We picked up a rental car from the Rome railroad station from an Enterprise affiliate Locauto,” he recalls. The next day, we returned it to the determined Locauto location in Florence.”

Problem is, the location was within the “restricted” area.

“But we were given assurances it would not be a problem,” he told our advocacy team.

It was a problem.

Authorities recently sent Moyer three tickets for driving in a restricted area. Total damage: $700.

We’ve previously written about the tourist-unfriendly rules in Milan, Bologna and Florence. Moyer joins a long list of drivers confused by Italy’s traffic rules. And his story reminds us to know the rules and plan our routes lest we end up running afoul of traffic law.

Booking a car through an Enterprise rental car affiliate

Moyer made this booking through Enterprise rental car but picked up his car from Enterprise affiliate Locauto in Rome. At the end of his Italy vacation, he planned to return the car to a Locauto location within Florence’s ZTL.

Florence is considered a pedestrian-friendly city because of the ZTL, which restricts vehicles in the city center to residents, taxis and buses. But according to the ZTL page of the Visit Florence website:

Car rental agencies communicate your license plate upon your return into the ZTL so that is placed on the “white list” and you are not fined later for having entered the ZTL area when the light is red. Just make sure to double check that they do it when you return the car, as there is a three-hour time limit for them to do it once you’ve entered the ZTL to reach them.

Heavy rental car fines 

In Moyer’s case, Enterprise never added his car to this “white list.” Shortly after he returned the car, Moyer received notice of three ZTL traffic violations. Then Enterprise sent Moyer notification of its administrative fees. He later learned of a fourth violation. The last violation brought the total in rental car fines close to $1,000.

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He initially contacted Enterprise Rental Car, but the company referred him to Locauto. After multiple attempts to contact the company by phone and through an online customer service portal that didn’t work, he again asked Enterprise to help.

Moyer also contacted the local police, who informed him that rental car company should have provided their office with the license number. The police department then would have placed the license on the “whitelist” of approved cars.

The police department also told Moyer that it is not uncommon for a rental agency to neglect to inform them beforehand.  However, the police department sends the car rental fines to the agency. And then the car rental agency forwards the violations to the renter.

Asking our advocacy team for help

Moyer could have reached out to the executive contacts we list for Enterprise. Instead, he asked our advocacy team for help.

Our advocate Dwayne Coward agreed to contact Enterprise on Moyer’s behalf. He eventually learned that one of the four violations indicated Moyer drove in a lane reserved for public transportation. The other three involved driving into the ZTL.

Moyer told us that he got lost trying to find the office and stopped at a hotel for directions. He also indicated that the Locauto staff member who checked the car in told him to fill the car with fuel to avoid additional charges, which required Moyer to leave and return to the ZTL again.

Of the three violations issued for Moyer’s driving in the ZTL, none was on Via Di Santa Lucia, which according to the Florence restrictions page on Locauto’s website is the only acceptable access into the zone.

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In spite of the fact that Moyer’s violations were not on the “only acceptable access” defined by the company, it agreed to refund the administrative fees it had charged. It would not agree to pay the rental car fines on Moyer’s behalf.

Final thoughts renting a car abroad 

Several years ago we posted advice on renting cars overseas. The most important part of this story is the same advice we give to all consumers: Be certain you know the rules related to your rental, flight or contract, including specific routes a rental car company requires you to follow. If you don’t, you could also find yourself with unexpected rental car fines.

Given the general confusion about traffic routes in restricted zones in Italy, the fact that Moyer found himself lost, and that the Locauto staff instructed him to leave the zone and return, should Enterprise and Locauto fully refund Moyer, or should he accept responsibility for the fines?

What do you think?

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Michelle Bell

Michelle worked in the travel and hospitality industry for almost two decades. Born in Germany, she has lived in 15 states and two foreign countries, and traveled to more than 35 countries. After living and working in Southeast Asia for several years, she now resides in New Orleans. Read more of Michelle Bell's articles here.

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