She declined insurance but then signed for it anyway

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By Christopher Elliott

Ted Van Anne’s wife isn’t an experienced traveler, but she knows she declined the optional car rental insurance. So why is Dollar charging her an extra $20 a day for her car? Is it possible to reverse the charge?

Question

My wife recently rented a car in Columbus, Ohio, from Dollar Rent A Car. When I made the reservation for her, I specifically told them we did not want their extra insurance coverage.

My wife is not a frequent traveler so she called me at the rental car counter that day to ask me if she should accept their insurance coverage charges that they were trying to add to the contract. Since our current auto insurance policy covered rental cars, I told her not to accept their charges.

She specifically told the Dollar Rental car agent in Columbus to not include the $20 a day insurance coverage on her rental agreement. However, someone added these charges.

I have contacted Dollar regarding an insurance charge of $104, but they refuse to make any type of adjustment or issue a refund. The customer service person at Dollar said my wife’s electronic signature when she checked out the car is proof that she wanted the insurance coverage. The Dollar counter in Columbus has a small electronic signature unit, and my wife would have had to scroll through many, many pages to see various charges via this tiny signature box unit.

What steps can I take to get a refund? — Ted Van Anne, Colleyville, Texas

Answer

The technology your wife used at the time of her rental should have helped her instead of leaving her with an overcharge of $104.

Car rental companies have installed electronic counter systems in order to avoid any misunderstandings with customers. Dollar included a series of digital screens that customers had to read and acknowledge before completing the rental process.

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Two of the screens dealt with any additional options purchased, their daily cost, and then the estimated rental total, including all options, taxes and fees. When I checked with Dollar, it said it moved to the new system to better explain charges and to disclose any potential issues, such as traffic or toll violations.

If your wife didn’t get used to the system, she probably recalls how things were before she encountered these countertop gadgets. Back then, you simply told the agent you were declining the insurance, and then the employee fixed the contract.

Misleading rental car insurance

The Dollar employee should have informed your wife that she needed to decline the options on the screen, and cautioned her to read the options carefully. Instead, she may have hastily clicked “accept” several times, in the mistaken belief that she was looking at the right contract.

She would have had several opportunities to see the final rate and then make a correction at the end of the rental process and when she returned the car. She limited her options for recovering the wrongfully charged insurance fee by waiting until after she returned from her trip. (Here’s our ultimate guide with the best travel advice.)

At the same time, it is in a car rental company’s interests to keep the rental process as confusing as possible. Why? Optional insurance is highly profitable to car rental companies, so the more drivers sign up for it — even accidentally — the more money a location makes. I think there’s no question that Dollar could have been clearer about its insurance. I’ve used the digital screens myself and there’s a lot of small print; if you’re in a hurry, it’s asking a lot to read the whole document.

Still, your wife should have done her due diligence. And so should anyone else who rents a car in this age of surprise surcharges.

My advocacy team and I contacted Dollar on your behalf. A representative stated that, even though the company’s records show your wife signed off on the insurance, it is evident that Mr. Van Anne will continue to escalate this issue and remains highly concerned about how he perceives this charge was applied.

Dollar refunded the $104.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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