Rental Car Companies & Damaging Practices

An investigative journalist for the Washington Post recently took a hard look at potential fraud in the car rental industry.  After renting and returning a car from  rental companies, several customers claim that they received a bill for damage to the vehicle even though they did not damage the vehicle in any way. 

One customer got a $667 bill for damages that he was sure he did not cause; he got no response from the rental company when he contested the bill, but he got letters from a collection agency.  He was billed for damages to a car that did not appear to be the same one he rented, the date of the damage did not match the dates that he rented the car, and the pictures of the damage were taken weeks after he returned the car.  The bill was only dropped once the customer contacted the Washington Post and the Virginia attorney general's office.  Other similar complaints raise questions about a growing fraudulent billing problem in the rental car business.

According to the article, rental car company employees are trained to hunt for damages with a fine-tooth comb after a car is turned in.  A former rental car franchise owner revealed that her employees were paid to find damages after a customer returned a vehicle, and simlar practices have been reported in Canada.  If complaints alleging billing for fraudulent repairs continue, then the United States may get involved in protecting consumers; but, for now consumers are on their own. 

To protect yourself from possible fraud, closely inspect and photograph all rental cars before driving off of the lot.  Documenting the state of a rental car before using it may save you from paying for damages that you did not cause.

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