ConsumerWatch: Customer Revved Up Over Rental Car Fee

REDWOOD CITY (CBS SF) – If you’ve ever rented a car, you know the final bill will more than likely include some extra fees. But, Don Nelson of Redwood City got hit with one he never expected — a $145 charge after he returned the vehicle with the “check engine” light on.

Nelson said he had no problems with the vehicle he rented from Enterprise until the very last day, when the engine light came on as he was driving on the freeway. At first, he assumed it wasn’t a big deal.

“The woman that helped me said ‘don’t worry about it,’” Nelson told ConsumerWatch.

But a week later, the retiree got a notice from Enterprise saying he owed $145 for “damage to the vehicle.”

Damage, Nelson said Enterprise claimed, he caused by “revving” the engine.

“I told them, I didn’t abuse the vehicle. It was absolutely fine when I was driving it,” Nelson recalled.

“Revving an engine is not considered abuse,” according to Neil Abrams, a consultant to the rental car industry. Abrams said rental companies are getting tougher on customers who return rentals in worse shape than they got them, in part because companies now own most of the cars that they rent, and hope to resell them at some point.

“Every ding, every dink, every issue regarding the engine or under the hood is a loss in the value of the vehicle,” Abrams said.

Frustrated by Enterprise’s insistence he pay the $145 fee, Nelson turned to ConsumerWatch. A ConsumerWatch volunteer contacted Enterprise and the rental company agreed to cancel the fine.

The company told ConsumerWatch the fee was a “mistake,” and it has sent Nelson a letter of apology.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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