Out of the blue, Hertz confiscated Marcus Hall’s loyalty points and banned him for life. His crime? The car rental company discovered an unpaid $6 toll charge — from 2012.
Seriously. Hertz said a partner company that processes toll charges had conducted an audit and found the delinquent invoice. But Hall had never received a bill or any notification.
Before Hall could even ask for documentation of the $6 charge, Hertz simply added him to its Do Not Rent List and stripped him of his points.
And try as hard as he might, Hall couldn’t get off the list. As absurd as it sounds, he’d been permanently banned by Hertz because of a 10-year-old bill. For $6.
This is a strange, strange case, and it comes at a strange time. Hertz is in the news for allegedly falsely reporting its cars stolen, leading to the arrests of hundreds of customers. Some of those drivers were jailed.
And it raises all kinds of questions. Can a car rental company really go after you for a 10-year-old bill? Can it ban you if you refuse to pay? Is it allowed to confiscate your points?
Also, how do you avoid a situation like this?
Why is Hertz charging me for toll charges after 10 years?
Hall said he pays his bills promptly, including his car rental bills. In fact, he was a loyal Hertz customer for years. Until that is, a Hertz representative told him he had an outstanding bill from 2012, which led to him being banned by Hertz. He’d run up $6 in charges by using PlatePass, its toll collection partner.
Oh, and he couldn’t rent from Hertz again until he paid.
He sent an email to Hertz, asking for clarification.
I have no recollection of ever receiving any invoices reflecting those charges.
Frankly, it’s pretty shocking and I’m curious why in the past decade, during which I have spent probably between $50,000 to $75,000 on Hertz rentals, and paid hundreds of dollars in PlatePass charges, I was not informed at some point that these now quite stale charges were still outstanding and need to be addressed.
Hertz’s response? Take it up with Toll Processing Partners.
Thank you for your patience while I review this matter.
I have received further information from our Toll Processing Partners and Direct Billing teams regarding the invoices received. They have confirmed that our Toll Processing Partners, Verra Mobility, went through a recent audit during which time previous unpaid invoices were discovered. At this time, notifications were sent to the applicable parties for payment of the outstanding invoices.
Our Direct Billing team has advised to reach out to them directly for assistance in resolving this matter.
Thank you again for your patience and for allowing me the opportunity to provide assistance.
Hall again asked Hertz to help him understand the charges. But Hertz again deferred to Toll Processing Partners.
I apologize for any misunderstanding; however, the phone number provided is to our Direct Billing team who is now over the account when it was moved from the Toll Processing Partners.
Unfortunately, this is not something I can overturn and it must be addressed with them at the phone number provided. I regret any inconvenience caused.
Banned by Hertz: “Can you help me get this straightened out?”
Hall called Toll Processing Partners about his unpaid toll charges. He says the company put him on hold for almost half an hour before telling him it could not provide an invoice.
“I can’t make payments on charges that are not correctly invoiced,” he says. “It’s unfortunate their accounting system allowed this issue to occur. But it is their issue to resolve, not mine.”
Hall was furious. He fired off another email to Hertz.
I never received any correspondence from Hertz indicating that my rental privileges would be suspended — and it appears my Hertz loyalty points canceled — due to an alleged 10-year-old, $6 charge.
It’s even more curious why your company would choose to alienate one of your high-volume customers by placing me on a Do Not Rent list. If you look at my customer record, you will see I have always promptly paid charges for which I have received an invoice.
That’s when he contacted me.
“Can you help me get this straightened out?” he asked.
Can Hertz really charge you for a 10-year-old bill?
Hall wanted to know if I’d ever heard of a car rental company pursuing a customer over a 10-year-old bill and then banning them if they didn’t pay.
I had never come across a 10-year-old bill in all my years of advocacy. Bannings, sure. Hertz adds people to its Do Not Rent list all the time.
I’ve seen car rental damage bills sent months and sometimes years later, but never more than two years.
Isn’t there a statute of limitations on a bill?
Kind of. Most companies write off a bad debt after two years and refer it to a collection agency. In California, where Hall lives, there’s a four-year statute of limitations on written debt. Other states have similar restrictions.
But that doesn’t invalidate the debt; it just means a company can’t sue you after four years.
If Hertz is going to do something like this, it must be able to provide a detailed invoice. The bill should show the time and place of the toll charge, the amount Hertz paid and the amount they are charging you, including any fees.
The bigger question is, why would Hertz do this to a frequent customer. The car rental company must have seen that Hall was spending tens of thousands of dollars on rentals. Why would it kick him to the curb over a $6 toll charge?
Can Hertz confiscate your points?
Yes, it can.
Like all loyalty programs, Hertz gives itself a broad license in its enrollment agreement to alter the terms as it sees fit. “Hertz reserves the right to update the reward points and redemption requirements at any time for any reason without prior notice,” it says.
Loyalty program members assume incorrectly that the points they’ve earned belong to them or that their points will never expire. But even the best-behaved Hertz loyalty program members can easily lose their rewards. If your account is inactive for 18 months, Hertz simply wipes them out of your account.
Hall lost all of his points when Hertz added him to the Do Not Rent list.
Hertz has a terrible track record when it comes to late billing
Almost all of the cases on car rentals we receive involve damage to the vehicle. But they don’t always lead to someone getting banned by Hertz.
- Here’s a Hertz claim filed four months after the rental. Turning down a damaged car might have prevented this one from becoming a case.
- This Hertz case took many months to reach the customer. The damage was also questionable. An agent looked at the underside of the car with a flashlight. Come on.
- And here’s another Hertz claim that took 15 months. There was nothing this customer could have done to avoid it. Hertz just took its sweet time.
Hertz isn’t the only car rental company to do late charges. But it does them the most often and it takes the longest, in our experience.
How long should it take to receive my bill for toll charges from a car rental company?
Toll bills are not as common as damage charges, and they almost always come soon after the rental ends. But the systems that handle billing aren’t always reliable.
Here’s a case we handled back in 2018, which involved a $729 bill. There was no way this driver ran up $729 in bills, but Budget and its surrogates at Highway Toll Authority insisted that he pay up — until we got involved.
Car rental companies forward the toll charges to their customers almost immediately. If there are any additional fees, you should get them within a month of your rental.
The bigger question is whether car companies should profit from toll roads. Most car rental executives say the answer is “no” — car rental companies should just cover their expenses. But in this 2014 story for the Washington Post, I noted that some renters did not believe the industry.
Stories like Hall’s are not helping, either.
How can you avoid a toll charge on your car rental
You don’t have to get banned by Hertz — or any other car rental company. Here are a few strategies for avoiding a late charge for tolls.
Bring your own transponder
To avoid car rental toll fees, bring your own toll transponder (where allowed) or pay using an app like PayTollo (again, where allowed). That way, you control how and when you pay for your tolls. It also means you’ll skip the third party that Hall had to deal with when he rented from Hertz. Plus, you’ll have an airtight alibi if a car rental company tries to collect tolls from you. Your transponder or app will have all the documentation you need to get out of a frivolous or late claim.
Ask if you should expect anything else
Don’t just walk away after you receive your final bill. Ask if the car rental company needs anything else before closing out your invoice. If the agent says you’re in the clear, try to get that in writing — either on the bill or on a business card. It sounds absurd, but given all the late charges customers are facing, it makes sense.
Rent from a company that doesn’t file late charges
Avis and Dollar have a little bit of a reputation, too. But Enterprise generally handles damage claims and other late-billing issues quickly. Do business with a car rental company that moves fast. Or you can take mass transit. No late billing issues there.
Hertz: “I am very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused”
Hall wasn’t done. He wrote the company one final email after being banned by Hertz for his unpaid toll charges.
Just one more point before I close the book on my 20+ year relationship with Hertz.
In the past, I always found your customer service representatives to be understanding and helpful. That character was one of the reasons Hertz succeeded in keeping my business for so long.
It is unfortunate that current Hertz corporate policy has tied your hands and has turned the Executive Customer Service team into revenue collection. I’m guessing this isn’t the reason you decided to make a career in customer service.
If I were you, I would think long and hard about whether Hertz is an appropriate place for an individual that values excellent customer care.
I wanted to give Hertz one more chance to reconsider its answer, so I contacted it on Hall’s behalf.
A few days later, he received the following email:
I am corresponding with you on behalf of Hertz Senior Leadership regarding a toll charge from a rental in 2012. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to review this matter and respond to you directly.
Please accept my sincere apology for the delay in this toll charge being brought to your attention. Due to this we have advised our Toll Processor Verra Mobility to zero out the balance and not attempt to collect. We have also reinstated your rental privileges.
Again, I am very sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. It is our hope you will allow us another opportunity to demonstrate the quality service you expect and deserve.
If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me at [email protected]
That is the correct answer, Hertz.
“Thanks for the help,” Hall told me. “And keep up the good work.”
But the company isn’t entirely off the hook. This isn’t just about one customer being banned by Hertz. It should stop collections on these 10-year-old toll bills immediately. At the very least, it needs someone to manually review them before sending them out to customers.
And it should never — ever — ban customers over an old toll bill without first trying to notify them.
About the art
What if road signs could warn you of an imminent car rental ban? That inspired artist Aren Elliott to create this photo illustration.