The Travel Troubleshooter: An unmarried driver fee? How enterprising

Question: A couple of weeks ago, my family and I took a trip to Hilton Head Island. We booked a rental car with Enterprise and the fine print in the contract said there would be an additional charge of $5 a day for “each additional authorized driver other than a spouse or domestic partner.”

I checked this language specifically, because my partner and I are partners, not spouses. We live in Canada (though we’re US citizens) and are “common-law spouses” (a domestic partnership category) under Canadian law.

When we arrived to pick up the car at the Savannah, Ga., airport, we were told we had to pay the extra fee because we were not married. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the document with the above language printed out, so I had to choose between signing the paperwork at the counter or finding a car from another agency.

Naturally, I chose to sign the paperwork; I had already waited in line for nearly half an hour, and I would almost certainly have had to pay a substantially higher rate as a last-minute walk-up at another agency.

When we got to Hilton Head, I looked up the information in my email, called Enterprise’s customer service line, and explained the situation. The gentleman with whom I spoke initially told me that “of course” we wouldn’t have to pay the extra fee if we were domestic partners. He then put me on hold to call the Savannah airport counter.

When he came back on, he told me that he had been wrong: the domestic partner exclusion applied only to same-sex domestic partners, not opposite-sex domestic partners.
I explained that the contract they sent to me did not specify “same-sex domestic partners.” It merely said “domestic partners.”

He agreed with me that we should not have to pay the fee, in his opinion, but said there was nothing he could do because that was company policy. He suggested that I register a formal complaint; I did so, but no one has gotten back to me. — Stacey Koprince, Montreal

Answer: If your contract promised domestic partners didn’t have to pay a fee for an additional driver, then Enterprise shouldn’t have charged you an extra $5 a day.
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