When Frank Diss rents a car in San Antonio, he accepts an agent’s offer of optional insurance coverage for a one-time cost of $26 for the entire term of his rental. But when Diss returns the car, he’s billed $208 more than he expected. Does he deserve a refund?
Question: I recently used Rentalcars.com to rent a car in San Antonio, Texas, from Avis.
I’m an experienced traveler and never take the additional insurance. The Avis/Budget agent asked if I wanted to add insurance for $26. I asked if that was per day. The agent assured me that the $26 was for the entire nine-day rental period.
Upon returning the car, I was charged $475. I informed the agent that I had been told the $26 insurance charge was for the entire rental, not per day. The agent said he couldn’t do anything because a manager wasn’t there.
I had a flight to catch. He gave me the information to contact the manager. I’ve called Avis several times, sent several emails and finally sent a lengthy letter to the corporate office. I have never received any kind of answer. Is there any hope of getting my money back? Frank Diss, Snohomish, Wash.
Answer: Everyone makes mistakes, from the most experienced travelers to the first-time flier. And from the newest rental car clerk to the most seasoned employee. I’m not sure who made a mistake in your case, but whoever it was, the mistake cost you over $200.
Yes, you should have read the rental agreement. In fact, you included a copy of the rental agreement you received when you picked up your car. It had the charge clearly displayed.
Mistake number one.
When you receive a contract, any contract, it’s your obligation to read and verify it. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve bought something, or how knowledgeable you are. We all know the adage of what happens when you assume something.
When the agent offered you LDW insurance for $26, you asked if that was the daily charge. You told our advocate that you felt the agent misrepresented the charges. “As extremely experienced travelers, we never agree to additional charges, as we have full insurance coverage, but he falsely told us it was a one-time charge of $26.”
Perhaps the agent misunderstood your question. Perhaps you misunderstood the agent’s answer. Regardless of what may have been the case, you signed the rental contract. Had you read before you signed, you would have seen the $26 charge was per day, not the total for nine days.
Your travel experience should have told you that in a competitive industry with thin profit margins, rental car companies are not in the habit of offering discounts on anything, especially additional insurance coverage that most renters don’t need. In a recent article penned by our own Christopher Elliott, hard-selling customers on optional insurance is a frequently-used tactic by rental car companies.
You realized the true cost of the LDW you purchased when you returned the car. You were unable to dispute the charge at that time because you were hurrying to catch a flight, and because there was no manager present at the Avis counter.
You contacted Avis several times when you returned home, both by phone and email. You could have used the company contacts we post on our website. Instead, you called the Avis manager in San Antonio and emailed the corporate office, but your communications were met with silence.
Avis was unresponsive and likely unsympathetic to your contention that you had been misled, probably because you had signed both a rental agreement and a return agreement that displayed the full LDW charge.
“We are not expecting a miracle – we do realize that we can’t prove the agent misled us, but the fact that they totally ignored our calls, emails and the letter should be addressed.” Acknowledging your mistake, you were realistic in your request to our advocates for help.
Our advocate was equally realistic in his response to you, “There’s a chance the company will ignore my request on your behalf.”
But sometimes, our advocates do work miracles. Three days after we contacted Avis, you wrote to us with an update. “We received a phone call from Avis/Budget stating that they were sorry for our inconvenience and that a full refund of the disputed charge will be credited to our account within five to seven days.”
You were satisfied with Avis’ resolution and we were glad that the mistakes that were made during your car rental didn’t cost you $200. But let this case be a lesson to everyone: Make sure you read everything before signing on the dotted line.