Budget Rent a Car is being attacked by several consumers for significantly overcharging them for minor damage to rental cars. The British Columbian customers have gone public with accusations that they were forced to pay for tiny chips and dents that are normal wear and tear on a vehicle and not their fault. This was all revealed in an investigation by CBC News.
In BC, Budget Rent a Car controls everything about a car hire transaction – renting the vehicles, selling the insurance and then doing its own appraisals for damage and repairs. CBC News found that the most common complaint among consumers is being charged up to $1,000 to have a car’s windscreen replaced after minor chips were found in the glass by the car hire operator. On top of this, whistle-blower programme Go Public claims some customers are being charged as much as $300 for small chips in the vehicle’s paint.
Most of Budget’s repairs are handled in-house for rather small sums in comparison to what they charge customers. The company has a repair facility at its location near Vancouver International Airport, and Go Public has seen mobile glass repair vans coming and going.
Glass Doctor, a windscreen repair business, says it costs car hire fleets much less to replace a windscreen than what Budget is charging its customers. Owner John Goldsmith says that the operator is getting quality products installed into its fleet for between $200 and $300. Replacements are often not even needed, and most small chips can just be repaired for up to $50 to meet safety standards. He continued to say that the strength of a windscreen is vital, and the repair of a stone chip restores its integrity. They have had car hire customers go to them first to have the repairs done before they return the car back to the operator to avoid being charged a huge bill.
CBC News caught up with some of the unfortunate customers who have been overcharged for these minor damages. Mother Wendy Chernoff, one of the complainants, was forced to pay a $300 insurance deductible last winter for a minor dent on the wheel rim. The charge was put on her credit card after the rental was returned to Budget Rent a Car and checked in.
Chernoff says she had the impression there weren’t any problems and didn’t realise there was a problem until the manager called at least an hour after she returned the vehicle. At first, the company told her a cleaner detected the dent, and then later they told her a subsequent customer reported it. She has gotten so many different stories. If the damage was done during her rental period, the staff would have noticed a flat tyre right away. She added that it’s so wrong they found damage after she left the rental facility.
Chernoff isn’t the only customer that has been put through this kind of situation. Eight other customers have complained to Go Public about the excessive damage fees, and most of them rented from the Budget Rent a Car’s location at Vancouver airport.
To top this off, the Better Business Bureau has recorded 70 complaints about Budget’s BC locations. A report from the organisation in August says that some customers are accusing company staff of performing inspections of returned vehicles and noting damage that was either there already or minor. Consumers are being forced to pay excessive charges for repairs by a repair shop of the operator’s choosing. The bureau added that they have requested Budget identify the repair shop, but the information hasn’t been provided yet.