Budget Settles With FTC Over Bogus Fuel Fees

Budget Rent-A-Car settled with the FTC over its illegal charge of fuel fees even for customers who returned the car with a full tank of gas. Budget claimed in its advertising and in-store signage that customers would not be charge for fuel if the car came back with its tank full. In reality, Budget would charge customers a $5, $6, or $9.50 fuel fee if they drove fewer than 75 miles and returned with the tank full. The only way to get the fee reversed was to present a gas receipt, a procedure Budget didn’t disclose in advance. Under the terms of the settlement, Budget will have to stop doing this crap.

Budget Rent-A-Car Settles FTC Charges; “Fuel” Fees Levied on Customers Who Returned Rental Cars With a Full Tank [FTC]

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  1. VoldtaEngler says:

    Avis has the same policy. Accept in my local office they have it in writing on the counter.

  2. aparsons says:

    I can understand their [Budget] position. I always used to rent cars, drive for fewer than 75 miles, and then return it. You still used fuel, so you should have to pay for it.

  3. SaveMeJeebus says:

    That mullet with the prison-handle moustache cracks me up. The policy is dumb; they offer you a $10 charge if driving under 75 miles and you are free and clear for gas. I opted not to take it last month and instead filled up the tank for $6 and then when the bill reconciled, they tacked on another $5. I called them and had them undo the charge.

  4. balthisar says:

    I rented from Budget last month, and they fully disclosed it that fact. It wasn’t even buried in the contract (which, duh, one should, you know, like, *read*).

  5. Murph1908 says:

    @balthisar:
    Uh, duh, perhaps they started doing this recently to due to the FTC action that they knew they were going to lose.

  6. headon says:

    @ Balthisar: By the time you finished readng the contract your vacation would be over. The thing is 6 pages long in 4 point font. Which, duh, you’d have to be a lawyer to inderstand. Oh, the FTC is like way off base because Budget disclosed it to you. By the way you win the prize. You were the one in a million full disclosure prize winner, Congrats.

  7. Buran says:

    @aparsons: Except, you filled the tank and did return it and were charged anyway.

  8. Buran says:

    Where’s the phrase “and affected customers will be reimbursed for this BS charge”?

  9. RevRagnarok says:

    @VoldtaEngler: “Accept in my local office” – great grammar, buddy.

    Anyway, I was forced to use them last month and they had a sign about the “under 75 miles don’t worry.” Then it said below (maybe 12 pt font vs the 32 that the main sign was) that they would waive the fee if you presented a receipt. Fairly clear. The real scam is Hertz charging mileage (but not one-way fee) when I picked up at SFO and returned it to SJC, which other rentals consider only one area so no one-way surcharges and still get the free mileage (hence the word “forced” in the first sentence).

  10. MatthewVA says:

    While the guy on the left does creep me out quite a bit, I am a little more nervous of what she is holding under that jacket. Are these disgruntled customers or waiting-to-serve employees?

  11. FLConsumer says:

    @Buran: That’s what I’m wanting to see…but we all know that won’t happen.

  12. VoldtaEngler says:

    @RevRagnarok: So I misspelled one word.. sue me and tip it in to Consumerist.

  13. mac-phisto says:

    what’s been ticking me off more lately is renting a car & getting a tank 1/3 full or some b.s. like that. it’s freakin impossible to make sure a car has 1/3 tank when you take it back. either you’re low & you get charged or you end up putting too much fuel in. either way, you’re getting screwed.

    the worst time was when i rented a car that literally had the gas light on when i left. i think that one went back with 1/2 tank. congrats, enterprise – you got about $30 gas on me.

  14. RevRagnarok says:

    @mac-phisto: A lot of newer cars have the trip computer that shows how much gas you’ve used (mostly the GMs I get stuck with). If you hold down the button it will zero. Then when filling, you can just put in exactly how much you used.

    I’ve never had one that didn’t say full when I rented. I did however once get it where it said full, I drove it from the rental place to work/home and back for two days, about 30 miles total. It was a tiny little Suzuki IIRC, and it claimed to have taken 4 gallons. I complained when turning it in; he checked the odometer readings and knocked the gas receipt price off the rental.

  15. tadowguy says:

    @VOLDTAENGLER:

    How did you get hired without knowing the difference between “Accept” and “Except”? Also, I think you meant to use a comma there and not a period. Embarrassing.

  16. Buran says:

    @FLConsumer: Unless someone files a (justified in this case) class-action lawsuit.

  17. Myron says:

    You mean there’s a limit to how hard car rental companies can screw their customers? There is hope for humanity after all. I think I’m getting tear in my eye.

  18. backbroken says:

    Eh. Just fill the tank with water a few blocks from the rental office. Car will run fine for a mile or two. Tank says full, your wallet says thank you.

    Ok. Bad idea.

  19. toddkravos says:

    Back in May of this year another driver t-boned me (she was 100% at fault) as I was driving.

    When I went to Enterprise to get my rental (to which the other driver’s insurance company full paid) – I learned that I wasn’t required to bring the vehicle back with a full tank or at the level the car was given to me.

    Makes me wonder if the rental agency surcharged the other driver’s insurance company….

  20. mac-phisto says:

    @RevRagnarok: wow. that’s kinda cool. they don’t affix those devices to cars around me, but they’ve been known to affix these devices –> [www.wtnh.com]

  21. RevRagnarok says:

    @mac-phisto: I meant the built-in one like the most primitive is odomoter / trip meter, but they call it a computer when it does things like estimated range to empty, gallons consumed, etc.

    I guess if I wanted to, I could’ve packed my ScanGuage and watched how much it used ;)

    WTNH – wow, I remember them. Grew up outside of Waterbury (Prospect). This is also like the third time I’ve read that the CT AG is a can-do guy.

  22. trollkiller says:

    @mac-phisto: I wonder if they installed that so it won’t rack up miles when they tow it.

  23. JayXJ says:

    @mac-phisto: Sounds more like a customer wiring the thing up to avoid extra mileage charges. At least I hope so.

  24. RevRagnarok says:

    @JayP71: That would be ‘evil genius’ but then you need to be smart enough to take it back out. It also zeros the speedometer tho, which can be dangerous (dashmounted GPS would fix that – I always bring mine in a rental).

  25. econobiker says:

    And by who’s definition of full do they rate it? Alot of the anti-pollution nozzles shut off prematurely on certain cars. And if you get full service in NJ or OR you might have a barely literate recent immigrant pumping your gas who just accepts that the nozzle turned off so it is full.

    I tend to overfill the rental car ( usually in after grabbing the handle from the attendant) in NJ to get to the Philly airport about 30 miles away still on full…

    That said I have given up on Budget due to a three hour wait one Friday night that got me and my family out of the Budget PHL airport counter at 2:30am Saturday morning. There were only three people working the entire operation- one bus driver, one car cleaner and the counter agent who was running out and pulling the cars around from the cleaning are along with checking in customers…

  26. RevRagnarok says:

    @trollkiller: I’m fairly sure that towing doesn’t affect(1) the odometer.

    (1) VoldtaEngler et al: By not having an effect, it does not affect.

  27. JayXJ says:

    @RevRagnarok: Why even bother? The parts to do this would cost about two bucks. Most rental places don’t check the car out very well. How often have you rented a car where you immediately had to have them add brake fluid, coolant, or something of that nature? By the time it is discovered there is no way to prove that it was indeed you that pulled this little stunt. Personally I’m too honest but not everyone is burdened by morals.
    A company, however, would have to be freakin’ nuts to do this because of the penalties.

  28. trollkiller says:

    @RevRagnarok: Seeing how the automobile in the story is a Chevy Blazer it may have been the towing vehicle and not the towed vehicle. According to the story the Blazer was two years old with only 34,000 miles. Only 17,000 miles a year on a rental. Seems that would be real low.

    My guess is a manger installed this and the vehicle was used to run errands and to pick up cars.

  29. RevRagnarok says:

    @trollkiller: “not the towed vehicle” – ah, hadn’t thought of that.

    I would never buy an ex-rental, mainly because they’re made to beat on. In fact, I learned emergency evasive maneuvers from an FBI agent in a rental… ;)

    (Rental mechanic wonders how there’s so much wear on the emergency brake and sidewalls of the tires…)

    IIRC I now have enough Hertz Gold credit to get a free weekend. I am planning on having a friend show me how to do stick shift some time soon (I know the theory, haven’t done it except my riding mower).

    Anyway, to get back on topic, I usually feel for the side against the company, but I’ve seen the notices and it doesn’t look like obnoxiously small type to me, nor the Micro Machines dude reading the disclaimer at the end of an ad.

  30. mac-phisto says:

    @RevRagnarok: you know, i’ve always wondered about this. doesn’t the odometer simply clock wheel revolutions of one of the driven wheels? i was always under the impression that all those folks towing cars behind a winnebago were increasing the vehicle’s mileage. perhaps not.

  31. Employees Must Wash Hands says:

    @trollkiller:

    According to that article, Enterprise bought that car off-lease from GM only a week before they sold it to the guy who found the kill switch.

    It sounds more like the original lessee had the kill switch installed so that he or she could drive the car without counting against the mileage maximum in their lease. He bought the car with 34,000 miles, which seems conveniently close to a 36,000 mile lease…

  32. trollkiller says:

    @ben1040: Ahh…. I missed that. I had my daughter in my ear earlier doing Sponge Bob or Hanna Montana qoutes. (not really sure)

  33. littlejohnny says:

    @ MAC-PHISTO

    I frequently rent for Enterprise and they give me an empty or almost empty tank quite often. When I return the car, they almost always ask if there is anything they can do better. So once I told them yeah, give me a full tank. They must’ve put it in the computer b/c since then almost every time they give me a full tank and when they don’t they apologize for it.

  34. navstar says:

    Love the picture! I bet Mr. Handlebar Mullet is a joy to work with!

  35. mark07960 says:

    A class action suit is forming against Budget Rent-A-Car, for their fuel surcharge on customers who return the car with a full tank of gas, and who have driven less than 75 miles.

    Currently we are collecting representative plaintiffs for the case. The representative plaintiffs represent all members of the class, in the class action suit. Usually, triple damages are requested and if the case is won, will be awarded to all members of the class who can be identified. This is an especially good case as the Federal Trade Commission has already come down on Budget. See the link:

    [www.ftc.gov]

    The representative plaintiffs are a necessity in order to bring the case to trial. Besides the awarded damages, which all class members are entitled to receive, the representative plaintiffs are normally awarded an additional compensation for stepping forward and helping bring the bad guys to justice. In previous cases I have worked, this compensation has ranged between $10K and $100K, depending on the size of the total recovery. This is not guaranteed, but the attorneys always ask for this compensation (and usually get it) in order to motivate plaintiffs to stand up in future cases.

    As a first step, we would do a conference call with one of the attorneys. You would then receive a draft complaint to read and approve. After that the attorneys get busy. The total time from filing to finish is normally about two years. But I expect this will move faster as the FTC ruling is particularly damaging to Budget.

    Please call me for additional information or to have any questions answered.

    Regards,

    Mark Kirschner
    mark.kirschner@verizon.net
    973-960-9094

  36. Trackback says:

    Flight delayed? Sue! A judge in India has ruled that passengers whose Go Air flight was canceled were due the equivalent of US$380 each because of the mental anguish they suffered. Is this a trend? Where can I sue for suffering through flight delays inside a regional jet?