Bill Marstellar and his wife plan a trip to Germany to visit their daughter for Easter. Marstellar uses Expedia to reserve a car from Dollar Rent a Car and is quoted a total price of $260. When he arrives in Germany, signage directs him to the Hertz counter to pick up the car, where he’s charged $630. Can our advocates get him a refund for the difference between what he paid and the quoted price?
Question: Last month, my wife and I went to Germany to visit our daughter. I reserved a rental car on Expedia’s web site for April 15-23. I reserved a midsize car from Dollar and was quoted a price of $260. When we arrived in Frankfurt, there was no Dollar counter to be found, but we finally saw a sign stating that all Dollar transactions would be handled by Hertz.
The Hertz representative immediately informed us that we were required to pay for additional “options,” including collision insurance (which we already had through my credit card), theft insurance (also already had it), and for an additional driver (which was supposedly already incorporated in the quoted price). The Hertz rep said it was Dollar’s policy and there was nothing Hertz could do about it.
Given it was Easter weekend, we had no choice but to take the car. When our trip was over, I also discovered that Hertz billed my credit card in dollars, rather than euros, which permits them to apply an inflated exchange rate. Hertz’s bill states they must offer to let us pay in the local currency, which they did not do.
In short, these charges, in addition to an unexplained service charge and the additional Value Added Tax (VAT) resulting from the overcharges, rendered a final price of $630 as opposed to the $260 I was originally quoted on the Expedia site, nearly 150% over the quoted price. In my opinion that is shameless. Can you help us recover the difference? Bill Marstellar, Rockville, Md.
Answer: I’m sorry to hear about your treatment by Hertz, and I hope that the Easter week you spent with your daughter was enjoyable in spite of this incident.
When you receive a quoted price on something, you expect that quote to be valid when the final bill is presented to you. Otherwise, what’s the point of getting a quote?
In this case, Expedia’s reservation system quoted you a firm price for a rental car from Dollar based on the information you provided, including waiving optional insurances and an additional driver. That should have been the same amount you were billed on the final invoice.
When you arrived at the rental counter, you were forced to take insurance you already had through your credit card, as well as duplicate add-on fees for an additional driver. This seems unfair. And it is.
The Hertz representative told you that this was “Dollar’s policy and there was nothing Hertz could do about it.” Considering that Hertz is the parent company of Dollar, this seems disingenuous at best.
To add insult to injury, when you received your credit card statement, you realized Hertz had charged you in dollars at Hertz’s then-current exchange rate without your consent, a violation of its own policy as printed on the invoice.
You decided to connect with our advocacy team for help. You indicated that you had already attempted to self-advocate, a process that we urge all of our readers at Elliott.org to engage in.
Unfortunately, as you told our advocates, your attempts to resolve the issue with Expedia, Dollar and Hertz were primarily conducted via telephone conversations. We discourage this, as it does not provide any paper trail to document who said what to whom.
After speaking with our advocate, you went to our website and found the executive contacts for Hertz. You copied us on the polite, concise email you wrote to Hertz.
Our advocacy team, armed with the necessary details of your case, was about to make contact with the parties involved and advocate on your behalf.
But less than an hour after you sent your email to Hertz executives, before we even had a chance to warm up our laptops, you notified us that you had received an email from a Hertz executive customer service representative.
The representative apologized for “the problems that you experienced and for the inconvenience caused,” and agreed with you that Hertz had “fallen short” of its aim to exceed customers’ expectations on this occasion.
The representative went on to acknowledge Hertz’s errors in not allowing you to decline additional insurance, the charge for an additional driver and the failure to provide you the option to have the charges billed in the local currency or the currency of the credit card:
As a gesture of our concern, I have refunded the fees billed for Collision Damage Waiver, Theft Protection and the Additional Driver plus applicable fees and taxes. I have also made an adjustment for the exchange rate difference. A credit of 350.16 euros is being issued to your Visa account. Please allow 3 to 5 business days for this credit to post to your account.
You are satisfied with this outcome, and we are satisfied that once again, the power of polite, respectful and concise correspondence to the ever growing list of corporate executives and company contacts we share on our website resulted in a positive outcome.