Priceline Promised No "Young Renter Fee," But Avis Says Pay Up

When Lauren reserved a car rental through Priceline last week, she checked out the fine print to see if she’d have to pay any age-related extra fees, and according to Priceline what she bid would be the total price. Now Avis is telling her Priceline is wrong and she’ll have to come up with more money at the rental counter.

The wording is a little confusing, with Priceline telling customers to include any young renter fee in the bid, but also guaranteeing that there will be no further fee assessed by the rental company once the bid is accepted:

I logged on to Priceline.com to book a car rental reservation on 9/23/10. After reading the minimum age requirement page on Priceline.com that states, “With priceline.com, you should include these additional fees in your offer price. If your request is accepted, you will not be charged any additional Young Renter Fees at the rental counter,” I proceeded to book my car with the impression that once my offer was accepted, I would not be required to pay any additional young renter fees at the rental car desk.

After completing my reservation, I called to confirm and make 100% sure that I wouldn’t have to pay any additional fees. I was told by the first agent that I would have to pay another fee. I explained that the website states that I wouldn’t and after she looked into it, she told me that she would make note on my account so that I would not be required to pay a young renter fee when I pick up my car.

I was still wary of the situation, so I called Avis, the car rental company. Avis informed me that even though Priceline stated that I would not have to pay, that they would in fact charge me. The Avis representative also told me that this has happened in the past and that Priceline needs to change their website wording. I then called Priceline.com back and asked to speak with a manager. The manager who I spoke with went over the issue with me and also researched it for a few minutes. She said that she too interpreted the minimum age requirement as the customer would not pay any additional fees if the offer was accepted, but told me that there was nothing they could do at this time. She offered to cancel the transaction, but told me that I would still be required to pay for one day of the rental car, which is completely unacceptable to me.

The Priceline.com website specifically states, “If your request is accepted, you will not be charged any additional Young Renter Fees at the rental counter,” so as a consumer, I trusted this statement. I feel as if I have been lied to and basically robbed because I am stuck in this situation.

Priceline said they would get back to me within 5 days after their marketing department looks into it, but my trip is right around the corner and I cannot and will not pay any additional fees for my rental car. The customer service department was not helpful and I am not satisfied with what they offered me. I either want my rental at the price I agreed to pay, without any additional fees, or a FULL refund of $183.80 to my VISA.

What should I do?!

Any suggestions, readers?

Comments

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  1. H3ion says:

    ’58 Impala. YES!

  2. Sword_Chucks says:

    Similar thing happened to me with Advantage rental in Phoenix, but it made sense why their quote was half what the other lines were quoting through Kayak

  3. H3ion says:

    Is the OP’s contract with Priceline or with Avis? It would seem that someone is accepting the “offer” which is a contract. At the very least, Priceline should eat any coosts in excess of their accepted quote. The problem appears to be between Priceline and Avis.

  4. JJJJust says:

    I would say, in addition to what you’ve done by writing The Consumerist… tell Christopher Elliott, the travel troubleshooter. http://www.elliott.org/

    and also, check out some higher level customer service info.

    http://onyoursi.de/wiki/car-rental/avis/

  5. DariusC says:

    Tell them not to charge you, that you do not accept the charges and if they do, tell them you will charge the money right back. Problem solved. If they take you to court over the chargeback, produce the documentation.

    Case closed.

    • RevancheRM says:

      I like this. In fact, I endorse this. Not sure if the CCC would agree, but I’d like to see it tried.

    • Griking says:

      People seem to think that they have an unlimited amount of credit card charge backs. If you develop a history of doing chargebacks the banks will eventually deny them.

    • PTB315 says:

      The wording isn’t confusing where it matters, and I don’t see any conflict either.

      “With priceline.com, you should include these additional fees in your offer price.”
      Please tell me if I’m wrong: This sounds like a recommendation to get your offer accepted, not a contractual obligation. If anything, it’s telling you that your offer should take all fees into consideration, not consider them separate from your offer. My interpretation is pretty much set in stone by the following:

      “If your request is accepted, you will not be charged any additional Young Renter Fees at the rental counter,”

      There is nothing in the parts in quotes that I am assuming is a direct quote of the specific language in the contract that was reviewed by the customer service reps that OP requested confirmation from. The contract is ultimately clearly in your favor that an offer accepted will not result in this fee being charged by the rental company. In fact, their interpretation is wrong if my assumption about the first line is correct. Priceline service reps tell you that’s not the case AFTER you purchased their service is irrelevant. At the time of your purchase, you agreed to that contract which stated no fees. I don’t see an overriding clause or even a contradiction.

      Does Priceline explicitly state anything that directly contradicts my interpretation of the word “offer”? If not, why is that line in the terms and conditions if it’s a suggestion on how to get your offer accepted? And even if it were somehow a requirement, how does that contradict the follow up statement that the extra child fee will not be charged after the offer? And even if it does contradict that statement following it, what makes it a superceding term over the other?

      If you hit a snag in my list of criteria above, which I do on every single question, I’d say you absolutely should cancel the reservation, and if they insist on charging you a fee, then file a chargeback with your credit card company as the others are suggesting. They appear to be unable to perform their requirements listed in their own contract. You can’t fuck up a contract then try to charge the other party in any situation. If one party cannot perform, the opposing party can terminate the contract without penalty.

  6. gavni says:

    I think you’re owed more than a refund, you’re owed a rental car. Every element on a contract is here, Offer, Acceptance and Consideration. If the website is as you said, then they represented this specific type of fee wouldn’t be required.

    Priceline should reimburse you the fee Avis charges you; that way you’re getting the service you agreed to from Priceline.

    • sonneillon says:

      Agreed. Priceline is the one to be dealt with since the OP made the contract with Priceline. They also have more influence over Avis and can dictate terms.

  7. TBGBoodler says:

    The OP should also check her insurance company to see if there are any perks in being a member of that organization. With USAA, if you use their credit card (and maybe even if you don’t), you won’t pay an under-25 fee.

    • JJJJust says:

      Unless you’re 18-20, in which case you still have to pay the fee.

      • jesirose says:

        I rented through them when I was those ages, and never had to pay a young driver fee.

        • meske says:

          It depends on rental location and whether you’re renting as part of a company or for personal use. I rented long ago when I was part of a company (corp account) and did not pay an under 25 fee, but try to rent without the company backing and boom, it’s there.

          This appears to be priceline’s error, so they should either cancel the reservation or make it right.

    • jesirose says:

      It’s nothing to do with the credit card, it’s just a service they offer, under “products and discounts” or some label like that. Discounts on travel, entertainment, flowers, etc, no matter what payment.

      • Darkneuro says:

        Products and Services tab, under MemberShop… Rental through Avis, Budget and Hertz, use the code and you get the perks (as long as it’s a corporate store, some franchises won’t accept the code). You have to use the code when you make your reservation.
        The card perks are if you complete the transaction using the card all the way through and include a Collision Damage Waiver.
        And travel insurance… Lost baggage insurance if you have the Platinum.
        Lots of perks with USAA, but you have to be military or legacy from someone in the military to get the insurance.
        I do recommend the bank, though…. I can HIGHLY recommend the bank.

  8. Gramin says:

    Why does anyone use Priceline? I can easily get a better deal by going through Avis. Furthermore, there’s no contract to sign until you get the rental car. That means, should I decide that I don’t like the cost or even forget to pick up the car, Avis can’t charge me.

    I wish people would stop using these third party sites that offer no real benefit. 10 times out of 10 you’re better off dealing directly with the hotel/car rental company/airline/cruse line. Then when something goes awry, they can’t play the blame game on the other party. It’s just you and them.

    Sorry OP, but you need to stay away from Priceline, Expedia, etc.

    • stopNgoBeau says:

      I used it while I was under 25 specifically so I didn’t have to pay an underage fee. I never got a car from Avis from Priceline, but got plenty of National, Budget, and Enterprise cars. I never had an issue with them, and he price was cheaper than paying regular price + the under 25 age fee.

      • Gramin says:

        There are several coupons out there offered by car rental companies to get out of paying the under 21 fee. A quick Google search and you can find all kinds of coupons.

    • rooben says:

      I wouldn’t go that far – these sites would’nt exist if they offered no benefit 100% of the time. The best idea is to use the sites that don’t require you to guarantee anything before seeing the price (expedia, travelocity, kayak, etc), then compare to the other sites (kayak does this automatically); and compare what is available direct.

      THEN you decide what has the best offer. By NOT using the 3rd party sites, you are ignoring potential savings.

      That being said – you should never sign onto buying something without seeing the price first.

    • MsFab says:

      Sorry, but with the “name your own price” function I’ve gotten lots of deals on hotel rooms & rental cars, as opposed to booking with the hotel or rental agency directly. Priceline definitely has an advantage in some aspects.

  9. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Chargeback to Priceline? They did not provide service as described and a material change in the contract has occured.

  10. Zen says:

    They declined to provide the agreed service at the agreed price; this is a material breach of contract. Chargeback.

  11. ryoko says:

    I would suggest the OP prints everything out incase priceline does change their website wording. Just some CYA.

  12. njack says:

    The OP’s statement ” I trusted this statement. I feel as if I have been lied to and basically robbed because I am stuck in this situation” is a bit of an exaggeration. She obviously did not trust this statement because she took multiple steps to follow up.

    That being said, this looks to be Priceline’s issue and they need to stand behind their implied written guarantee of “If your request is accepted, you will not be charged any additional Young Renter Fees at the rental counter.”

    • Paintmann says:

      I agree. This is a Priceline issue, not Avis. If Priceline is making the guarantee, and Avis adding additional charges, it is up to Priceline to keep the “contract” price with the OP. Sounds to me like Avis and Priceline need to renegotiate their contract. IMO, Priceline should eat the overages on the contract.

  13. sgnewman says:

    Contact consumer advocate Christopher Elliott. He deals specifically with travel plans. He’s good about resolving issues between consumers and companies. Especially one as glaring as yours.

    http://www.elliott.org/

  14. lupis42 says:

    Dispute the charge on the Credit Card.

  15. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Priceline should definitely be paying the fee for the OP because this is their fault.

    I find it irritating that, on top of everything else, no one at Priceline said that the site would be fixed. And it’s still wrong: http://tickets.priceline.com/customerservice/faq/showHelp.asp?faq=ext%28min_age_requirements%29&jsk=2003010a9803010a20100929165418D36b01461978&plf=PCLN

  16. Difdi says:

    Call William Shatner. He’ll kick their asses for giving you a bad deal!

  17. sopmodm14 says:

    whats clear is that you,as the consumer, and as CLEARLY STATED, you don’t have to pay this fee

    now,. if priceline and avis want to fight over the fee, let THEM do it

  18. ihaveneverknown says:

    Priceline is acting as reseller and reservation agent for Avis. No payment is made to Priceline for the reservation. In fact, Priceline only is responsible for estimating the cost of the reservation, and doesn’t even take the credit card information.

    The poster should have called Avis not Priceline. Heck, rental car regulations vary by state and even counties in some cases. It even says right on the Priceline under the rental policy rules:

    AGE SURCHARGE
    27.00 USD PER DAY UNDERAGE SURCHARGE APPLIES TO
    RENTERS 21-24 YEARS OF AGE.

    Claiming ignorance without complete due diligence doesn’t make sense to me.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      You don’t know you are getting an Avis rental until your bid has been accepted. So that wouldn’t work.

      • ihaveneverknown says:

        You are correct. However, the assumption of the poster was that regardless of his bid he WOULD NOT be charged a fee for being a minor. In effect he was attempting to avoid paying the fee for being a minor by circumventing the rental agency whom he would ultimately have to pay and sign the contract with. An accepted bid is not a contract with the agency, but rather a agreed upon price that he will pay.

        As mentioned, upon learning of his accepted bid by Avis he called them pointing to the Priceline verbiage. However, Avis (as he expected) reaffirmed that in fact the contract is made with them, not Priceline.

        Again, in the T&C on Priceline:

        Vehicle rentals available through this Site are subject to standard rental contracts of the car rental companies, which will be completed by you at the time of pick-up of a vehicle.

        • Sammich says:

          Incorrect.

          What was stated is that any applicable charge for being a young renter is included in the offer price. As in already accounted for. Avis accepted the offer under those terms, and it is not the poster’s responsibility if they didn’t.

          At least, as long as the poster’s age was properly disclosed in the offer.

  19. stevenpdx says:

    ” Minimum Age Requirements

    Priceline.com offers car rentals to drivers between the ages of 21 and 24 years old in select locations. Rentals for drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 are available in New York only. Enter the details of your trip and we’ll tell you if we can fulfill your request.

    Rental companies charge renters under the age of 25 Young Renter Fees. These fees typically start at $20 per day and can be as much as $50 per day for high cost locations or more desirable car types. For example, a rental car that normally costs $30 per day could cost an underage driver at least $50 per day.

    With priceline.com, you should include these additional fees in your offer price. If your request is accepted, you will not be charged any additional Young Renter Fees at the rental counter.”

  20. vastrightwing says:

    All kinds of companies are getting on the on the act of undocumented fees and canceling service when it’s to their advantage:
    Uhaul: won’t honor reservation for low price if they have walk-ins paying full retail for said truck.
    Hotels: charge for all kinds of extra fees not mentioned on booking sites.
    Rental cars: too many fees to list here. But generally the fees are higher than the rental itself.
    Body shops: add a premium to insurance work stating that the insurance co. won’t cover their costs so you are charged $5-6/hour more.
    Airlines: you know the drill.
    Cable co.s: disconnect fee, reconnect, not connected to phone line fee, downgrade fee… arrgghh!

  21. FrugalFreak says:

    Seems to me the only safe way to get an offer is to NOT include possible additional fees in the bid price . that way if they ask you for a fee again at the rental counter, you have on ly paid it once. the way Priceline is wording it is include it to make your offer higher but be aware the parties we make contract with sees the amount as base price not including extra fees. Priceline just wants you to win so they get paid.

  22. demonicfinger says:

    if priceline forces you to pay for one day of the rental tell the a manager that you refuse to do their business when their wording is deceiving. if they charge your card just have your credit card company reverse the payment because you did not authorize them to proceed with the transaction without an exchange of service.

    to be honest it’s best to go with Enterprise and ask somebody for a corporate rental code where they will waive the underage fee for you. Enterprise does not charge underage rental fee if you have a corporate code.