Woman Claims Rental Car Company’s Charges Were an ‘Obvious Cheat’

DES MOINES, Iowa – A rental car company is being sued by attorneys who claim customers across the country were charged fees they didn’t understand or agree to.  A woman visiting Iowa was charged more than $2,000 in such fees.

Caixia Lai flew to Des Moines from China to watch her son graduate from college. She stopped at Dollar Rent-a-Car at Des Moines International Airport, handed the agent her Priceline.com agreement, signed her name and drove away. She didn’t realize that her credit card had just been maxed out.

The Priceline agreement clearly showed $385 was the charge for insurance. Dollar tacked on $1,400 for additional insurance, the kind the receipt warns customers they are not required to purchase. Despite the language barrier, Caixia said she could not have been clearer. She explained that she told the agent, “No change.  Just this (Priceline agreement). No change. (The Dollar agent) told me, ‘Okay.  Okay.  Alright.’”

Caixia’s total was supposed to be $1,177. It ended up being more than $3,500. She said she didn’t realize it until she arrived at her son’s apartment in Ames.

“It’s (an) obvious cheat,” said Caixia.

A man who is suing Dollar Rent-a-Car in two federal courts claims that Caixia’s case is just one example of a pattern of deceptive business practices. John Mattes said it’s happening in “dozens and dozens of airports, (to) thousands and thousands of people, millions of dollars we allege have gone into the pockets of Dollar Rent-a-Car and Dollar Rent-a-Car knows it.”

Mattes’ lawsuits claim that Dollar employees “illegally dupe customers into signing up for… car insurance, and other added services that consumers do not want and/or have specifically declined…”. He said, “(Caixia’s) example is egregious because of the amount that was defrauded.”

Caixia’s son, Liu, called Dollar to try to get a refund, but he said company representatives explained to him, “That there is no way to return this insurance charge because my mother already signed her name.”

On the day the car was due to be returned, Channel 13 News went along with Caixia and her son to give Dollar Rent-a-Car a chance to do the right thing.  The Dollar agent who finalized Caixia’s agreement wasn’t working at the time.  Another Dollar agent admitted that, had she seen the Priceline agreement, she would not have charged Caixia for the additional insurance.  Employees from the Hertz (Dollar’s parent company) counter addressed the situation.  It turns out they can issue a big refund.  More than $2,500 was refunded to Caixia’s credit card.

Liu said, “And now we only pay $983 total.”  Caixia added, “I can’t believe (it).  Thank you (for) all of your time and your help.  Thank you very much.”

Channel 13 reached out to Dollar and Hertz.  We received the following statement from a corporate communications manager:  “We are very pleased the situation was resolved with the customer you referred to. Thank you for your assistance and for bringing the issue to our attention.”

 

11 comments

  • Oscar Sanchez

    I wish that there was more tv news that supports a space dedicated for ridiculous things like this company, maybe we would have a better Des Moines, or other little towns like marshalltown that there’s a lot of wrong things going on with two company’s that take advantage of people here, thanks to channel 13 and mr anchor man for doing the right thing for this women

    • Joe Lent

      What do people expect, renting cars and dealing with other companies, in a capitalistic country? The object is to make as much money as possible, often any way possible.

  • Joe Droppert

    If the cameras would not have been there, the agent would have told her, Sorry there is nothing I can do for you.

  • Jane Alexander

    My sister and her military spouse flew into San Antonio and the same thing happened to them with a rental from Hertz. They had rented the car through hotwire, and were charged additiional insurance fees in addition to the insurance they had added on hotwire, and were told they were not authorized to make any corrections at the counter (even though THEY added it there). My sister went back the next day to discuss it with a supervisor and was told she should have fixed it when she picked up the car, now it was too late. She explained she tried to and was told the agent couldn’t do it. She sent letters about it when she returned to Germany and still has not heard a thing in response. This was back in the beginning of April. Is there any more information about whom someone would contact about the class action lawsuit mentioned on the report?

  • rebecca keenan

    This must be an epidemic. My husband flew from San Diego to Des Moines Dec 2013 to spend the Christmas holiday with his kids and grandson. I had rented the car online at the dollar web site months in advance. When he arrived at the Dollar counter, the girl at the counter told him he had to take the extra insurance. He is a senior citizen and after traveling all day was tired and signed where she told him. He called me upon arriving at his daughter’s house. I told him to get back in the car and return to Dollar. I told him to tell her we do not need the insurance and he never wanted it. He returned to the airport. They agreed to cancel all the extra insurance except one portion. The girl told him it was “Iowa law” that he have this insurance. Reluctantly, he agreed. He was not familiar with Iowa law. In the mean time I had called Dollar Corporate and spoke with a gentleman in their corporate office. He agreed it was not Iowa law to have this insurance and agreed to not bill us for the insurance except for the one day. I agreed. He asked us to return to the airport and get a new agreement. Off to the airport for a 3rd time, My husband was told he would have a new rental rate if the contract was stopped early because we had an “advance ” reservation vs a last minute reservation. Once the dust had settle, the cost to rent the car was double what it should have been and Dollar refused to budge on refunding the insurance portion of the rental.

  • Kyra

    We rented a car from Hertz earlier this year when our car was in the auto body shop. Even though the rental was covered by the other person’s insurance, they still demanded a credit card from us. We opted to fill the car up before returning it (the gas station is a tenth of a mile from the place), but they still charged us for gas. My husband called to dispute the charge. After being on hold for 20 minutes to finally reach someone, they demanded that we provide them a copy of our gas receipt to prove that we filled the car up. Are you kidding me????????????????? No way! I’m not doing that. How about you prove to me that the car was empty when we returned it. And they don’t allow you to call the local office. It was a mess. I finally called the manager at the auto body shop (it was a dealership and Hertz rents space from them) to handle it for us since he was the one that sent us there. He got it taken care of. Never again!!!!

  • Cynthia

    Had the same thing happen in Florida. I specifically said I wanted my rental for the same way it was reserved, no extra anything. No upgrades at all and they still charged me for extra insurance! They are scammers!!

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