June 4, 2013

Lawsuit accuses Dollar Thrifty of charging customers for extra insurance coverage

Steve Roberts travels a lot for work. In March, he flew to Tampa, Fla. After landing, he went to the Thrifty rental counter to pick up the car reserved by his employer.

"I said, 'I don't want the damage waiver because I am covered by my insurance and by my credit card,'" Roberts recalled telling the Thrifty employee.

Before leaving with the car, Roberts said he asked the employee again to make sure he wouldn't be charged for the extra insurance coverage.

Roberts said, "OK this does not include damage waiver, correct?" She said, "No, it does not."

After the trip, Roberts was surprised to find a $135 charge for loss damage waiver. Roberts said he called Thrifty twice to dispute the charge, but the calls got him nowhere.

A lawsuit filed in November against Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group is seeking class action status. It spells out similar stories from other consumers. The lawsuit covers a broad range of renters, including:

- A doctor in Denver who was charged by Dollar an extra $215 for insurance coverage

- A senior citizen in California who got a bill for $359

- A retired insurance adjuster who handled claims for another rental car company who was charged an extra $259

The lawsuit alleges, "Dollar is aware these practices are on-going.”

It goes on to state, “Dollar stands behind the practice of their employees tricking consumers into signing up for insurance or other add-ons they told agents they did not want or simply forging their signatures, thereby obtaining any purported 'consent' by forgery, trickery, fraud or mistake."

The ABC15 Investigators, along with several other Scripps Howard news stations, recently rented cars from Dollar and Thrifty. While the employees offered the extra insurance coverage, our producers declined it, and we were never charged for it.

In a written statement, a Dollar spokesman stated the company does not typically comment on pending litigation, but wrote that "Dollar Thrifty complies with all laws and denies allegations that it sells customers products they do not want.”

For consumers renting a car, one question is always asked: Do you need the extra insurance coverage? The next time you travel, here are some things to keep in mind.

- Check your personal car's coverage. If you have comprehensive and collision coverage, make sure it extends to rental cars.

- Check with your credit card companies to see if they provide additional coverage

- Consider your deductible. If you get into an accident, you will at least pay the deductible out of your own pocket.

"What's coming first is their deductible. Anything above their deductible, the insurance company will take care of the damages,” said State Farm Insurance Agent Matt Ciani.

Roberts decided not to take part in the lawsuit. He went through his credit card to dispute the extra $135 charge.

His efforts paid-off, as Thrifty recently removed the charge. On future trips, Roberts plans to write across the face of the original bill, “no damage waiver,” then ask for a copy to keep.

The Dollar Thrifty spokesman said the company intends to vigorously defend the cases.