Rental car charges tacked on

For a trip to Kangaroo Island, Australia, in October ’03, I rented a car for three days from Hertz. Booked for pickup on Oct. 4 and dropped off on Oct. 6, it was part of a package deal with Emu Airways (General Aviation Terminal, Kel Barclay Ave., Adelaide Airport, S.A. 5950, Australia; phone 08-8234-3711 or visit

The total cost of the package I booked with Emu was Aus$976.96 (near US$757), which covered the return airfare from Adelaide to Kingscote, two nights’ hotel accommodation at the Seaview Motel and the three days’ compact car rental. Initially, the rental car portion of this amount was Aus$219.63 (near US$170) plus tax.

When I booked the package with Emu Airways, they neglected to tell me the car rental had a limit of only 200 kilometers per day. Consequently, the rental company added to my credit card bill a charge of Aus$10.95 (US$8.50) for 41 extra kilometers.

It was my fault also, perhaps, that I didn’t notice the typewritten inclusion on the rental agreement that there would be a “cleaning charge” of Aus$30 if the car was returned muddy or dusty. There had been no rain in the 54 hours we had the car, but I was charged the cleaning fee anyway as the car was returned “very dusty inside.”

I had declined the fuel charge, as I intended to fuel up on the way back to the airport, which I did. Big mistake! They charged me Aus$7.50 for refueling. Apparently, this was a way to cover their fee for taking the car to the airport for my pickup. They filled the tank up when they got the car back to town, as there was no gas station at the airport. They claimed the airport was only a “service desk,” not a depot, so I ended up paying for the extra fuel used to pick the car up at the airport.

I also had to pay Aus$141.44 for a broken antenna that I discovered broken the second day I had the car.

Then there was what they called a “vehicle rego recovery” charge of Aus$9, which I assume is another gouge to pay for the license fees.

When I complained about these various items to the U.S. office of Hertz, the first response I got was just photocopies of the agreement. A second complaint brought a phone call saying that because I was dealing with a franchisee, there was nothing they could do.

I dealt with John Karran, manager at the Hertz office on Kangaroo Island, and his second response to my dispute was as follows: “Thank you for your response. Our original charges were valid and will stand.”

I know there is nothing that can be done, but if I can prevent one other person from having a similar problem I will have done my job.

Long Grove, IL

ITN sent a copy of the above letter to Hertz Worldwide Headquarters and received the following reply.

This correspondence is in regard to the complaint filed with your publication by Mr. Terry Cummings. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address this matter.

At Hertz, we pride ourselves on our high quality of customer service. While we truly regret any misunderstanding with regard to the charges on his rental, after reviewing this matter with our Kangaroo Island Rental Car franchise, we have determined that Mr. Cummings was charged correctly per the contract he signed.

Hertz customers are given three options with regards to refueling the Hertz vehicle. A customer can either purchase the entire tank at the start of the rental based on the current market cost, return the vehicle with a full tank or have Hertz replace the fuel upon its return at a higher cost. Mr. Cumming’s vehicle required 5.04 liters to fill, and he was charged accordingly.

As disclosed in the Rental Agreement Terms and Conditions, the renter of a Hertz vehicle is responsible for any damage or loss that occurs as a result of the rental when our Loss Damage Waiver is not accepted. Mr. Cummings declined this option and returned our vehicle with damage that was not present at the time of rental. Accordingly, he was charged for our cost to repair this vehicle.

Lastly, due to road conditions on Kangaroo Island, our contracts state that if a vehicle is returned with excessive mud, sand or dust, a cleaning fee will be applied. The vehicle Mr. Curmmings returned required additional detailing beyond normal wear and thus was charged this cleaning fee.

I trust that this letter will clarify Hertz’s position in this matter.

SUSAN ROSALAK, Customer Relations Correspondent, The Hertz Corporation, 225 Brae Blvd., Park Ridge, NJ 07656-0713