Sanibel couple charged for under-car damages to rental

SANIBEL, Fla.- A couple spent weeks fighting Enterprise Rent-A-Car over what the company says is damage to the car they rented.

“It just makes me mad,” said Jim Camp who said he has been renting cars for the past four decades.

“Typically, when we return the car we pull in, we follow directions, we give them the mileage or they look the mileage,” Camp said.

Camp said one of his latest experiences deviated from all the times he has returned a rented vehicle. The Enterprise Rent-A-Car employee looked for damages under the car.

“The gentleman came up to the car door, didn’t even say ‘Hello,’ didn’t walk around the car or do anything. He pulled  out a flashlight, moved to the front of the car, dove under the car and he emerged and said ‘Oh, there’s damage to the car,'” Camp said.

Camp and his wife, both part-time residents, said they’ve never seen that. No one ever looked for damage when they returned a rental, he said.

Fort Myers attorney Dave Fineman of the Dellutri Law Group suggests taking damage claims to management, pushing the claim up the chain of command until it is dropped.

If the accusation of damage persists and lands in court, the rental company would be required to prove who caused the damage.

“If there is damage and they’re asserting that you did it, they’re going to have to prove you’re the ones who did it and they’ll have to prove their usual custom and practice is to go down on one knee and look at the car before they send it out,” Fineman said. “And have someone testify that it was not there before you took it out.”

Complaints about charges for damage under rental cars exist online. The Camps were charges $160 for damages plus administrative fees and a penalty charge for devaluing the car.

The claim was dropped after a struggle lasting nearly two months.

A person renting cars should document everything, especially when picking up the car because the vehicle becomes the renter’s responsibility once it is in their care.

Enterprise Statement on their Process:

· Although less than one percent of damage claims are disputed, our company treats every claim seriously and each one is reviewed multiple times by different people. Our employees – at local branch offices, at the airport and at our regional Damage Recovery Units (DRU) – are trained and focused on getting the facts right, which includes double-checking previous rental transactions for any prior damage.

· Our step-by-step process is designed to ensure consistency, transparency and fairness. That is why customers should contact us immediately if there are any concerns – our objective is to do everything we can to quickly investigate and resolve claims. The process obviously is not perfect, but it is very detailed and comprehensive, and we thoroughly review all documentation provided by customers. In short, every precaution is taken to ensure that customers are not inadvertently charged for damage that did not occur during their specific rental period.

· A customer’s first opportunity to express concern about a damage claim is during the return process if he or she is present. When customers are not present, the rental location will document the damage and then forward a report to our DRU office, which processes damage claims on behalf of our regional subsidiaries and all three car rental brands. The rental location or the DRU office then contacts the renter about damages as soon as possible. Likewise, it is helpful for customers to communicate as soon as possible with our DRU office if they have any questions. We look into each situation carefully and thoroughly, and certainly will carefully review any documentation provided by the customer.

· We prefer to work with our customers directly so that they are comfortable with the process and continue to do business with us. Any time a customer is concerned, he or she should immediately contact us. We will do everything we can to properly investigate and resolve the claim as quickly as possible. Keep in mind that very few rental transactions result in damage, and less than one percent of claims result in customers disputing their responsibility. The vast majority of disputed claims are resolved to the customer’s satisfaction. We have a long-standing policy of passing on any parts and labor discounts that we receive to our customers and responsible third parties. In addition, as previously noted, our DRU office does not operate as a profit center, and we try to be very conscientious about properly assigning all related costs associated with vehicle damage claims. It is important to note that no rental or DRU employees are compensated for identifying, assigning or collecting on damaged vehicle claims.

· We conduct a pre-rental vehicle inspection, which includes cleaning, refueling, necessary maintenance and damage review, for all of our brands. We also use something called a “damage evaluator” template to identify any preexisting damage and ensure any damage is consistently documented by our employees in the airport and home-city branch offices. In addition, today more and more consumers are using their phones to take photos if they have any questions or concerns about their rental vehicle – an effort that is in no way required, but that we understand if it makes a customer more comfortable and confident in our process for all three car rental brands.

· For the Enterprise Rent-A-Car brand, our service model involves employee interaction with every customer during the vehicle selection process. This allows us to make a physical inspection with our customer – before a rental car is driven off the lot. Our Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental service models don’t involve employee interaction unless questions arise, so cars are inspected prior to each rental, however, not typically in the presence of customers at the commencement of the rental. Because accidents are an unfortunate fact of life, some of our Alamo and National customers do personally inspect rental cars for additional peace of mind and to provide them a clear understanding of the overall condition of the vehicle from the start of the rental period. Regardless of brand, it is our normal practice to inspect the vehicle upon return with the customer present.

· Generally, customers are present when a damaged vehicle is returned, and acknowledgement is routinely obtained. However, it’s not always practical for customers to be present when the agent inspects the vehicle. They may drop off a vehicle after hours or at a location other than the rental office or circumstances may not permit them to wait for the agent to inspect the vehicle. In those cases, we inspect the vehicle as soon as possible and follow up with the customer if any damage is discovered. It is important to understand that the rental transaction is not complete until the vehicle has been inspected.

· If our employees inspect the vehicle and finalize the transaction with the customer present, then any readily apparent damage discovered at a later time is our responsibility. However, there are times when damage is not readily observable during the return process and only discovered when the vehicle is driven or later inspected. In those instances, a renter may be contacted to determine how the damage might have occurred. A claim may be made when available evidence suggests the damage occurred while the renter had possession of the vehicle.

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