FORT MYERS, Fla. – A Fort Myers man says National Car Rental tried to charge him for damage he didn’t cause to a rental vehicle, echoing dozens of others who have filed similar complaints with National’s parent company.
David Howe rented a car Oct. 28 from Miami airport. His problem began when he returned it the next day at Southwest Florida International Airport, he said.
“When I entered the garage, it was obvious to the person looking at the cars coming in that there was some damage,” Howe said. “When I got out and I looked at it and I saw how insignificant it was, I think I laughed in his face.”
Howe signed an incident report in which an employee wrote on his behalf, “I did not cause those dents. I will not be held responsible.”
He thought the affair was over. But then he got a call from National saying he owed $502 for damage done to the front grill.
“I was very, very angry,” Howe said. “One of the things that concerned me is when I picked up the car and drove to the exit booth rental, there’s no one to check the car. It’s just assumed that the renter is going to find all these things and notate everything, apparently these are very minor things. Of course when I returned the car, the scrutiny was much different, there were people basically on their knees looking around for anything they can find.”
Pattern of complaints
In the last three years, a total of 74 people have filed similar complaints against National’s parent company, Enterprise Holdings, with state attorney’s offices in Missouri, where the company is headquartered, and in Florida.
One man wrote he rented a car from Enterprise and drove it 42 miles. When he returned it, employees noticed scratches on the rear bumper. He said he heard nothing for weeks, but then got a bill $427. He said when he asked for repair estimates and pictures, the company refused.
A woman wrote she returned her rental to Alamo with a key scratch, which she knew she would have to pay for but then got a letter saying the rear bumper and tail light had to be fixed. She said they told her she had to pay $638.
After Howe received the claim, he contacted National asking for pictures to prove there was damage significant enough to be repaired. He received six pictures, which he says show “they are absolutely damaging their own vehicle.”
One of those photos from National is below.
This is a photo that Howe took.
National drops claim
National wound up removing Howe’s charge.
“Unfortunately, because of human error and miscommunication, Mr. Howe is inadvertently contacted about the vehicle damage,” said Lisa A. Martini, a spokesperson for Enterprise Holdings.
National responded to an inquiry about the case by sending a report titled “Enterprise’s Van Horn: Vehicle damage recovery is ‘not a profit center.'”
“Our Damage Recovery Unit 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,” a National official says in the report. “It is important to note that no rental or Damage Recovery Unit employees are compensated for identifying, assigning or collecting on damaged vehicle claims.”