January 15, 2004

Rental Car Blues

More often then not folks renting cars are in a hurry. For instance, your plane just landed and your luggage is waiting, etc., so you do not read all that fine print in the contract and, of course, the fine customer service rep working with you has likely been trained to only say things that might maximize revenue. What happens next?

Well, Dan Gillmor tells us

about a man who was charged more than $3,000 for a car rental because he took the car out of state without realizing that would violate his contract. How did Payless, the rental company, know? It was using satellite-assisted tracking equipment to spy on the customer.
The original article is here.

The charge of $1/mile for driving outside the state of origin is surely excessive. I do not even understand the logic of the charge. And it is not nationally common. Example, fly into Cincinnati I mean Kentucky to go to Cincinnati. I have done this quite a few times and not been charged anything extra.

Sure, the guy should have read the contract. But I argue that failure to disclose and explain potential extra charges in big print on the front page may be deceptive given the context of the typical rental transaction.

And, the Oregon proposal (mentioned in the comments) to use GPS to calculate your driving miles as a basis for taxes is just broken before it gets out the door.

Posted by Steve on January 15, 2004

This is one of the reasons why I read every single word on every contract I sign. Sometimes it makes me late, and it usually drives the counter staff nuts, but it has saved my bacon a couple of times.

Try crossing out some of the terms of the contract, adding in a couple of your own, then handing it back to them. If you have nothing to do on a lazy afternoon, of course...

Posted by (: Tom :) at January 15, 2004 1:48 PM

We are *supposed* to read every word of a contract. But when people are traveling, in a hurry, with people in line behind them, and entering into a typical transaction like renting a car, can we really be expected to read every word of a contract and have that be enforceable?

I am not a lawyer, but if the businesses' practice is to quickly move a customer in and out the door, and the customer does not reasonably have time to review the contract, should obscure sections of it be enforceable? Should unmentioned clauses be allowed to bite us later?

No, these are deceptive practices and any deceptive clause in a contract should be void. Businesses who profit from enforcing these clauses for their gain should be exposed and avoided.

Posted by Phil at June 5, 2004 9:35 PM
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