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Q: In September of 2010 I booked a trip to San Francisco and paid for the plane ticket and rental car together through lastminutetravel.com. The trip was great but now the car rental company, Fox Rent A Car, is refusing to refund what they told me was a $150 deposit back to my card!I've called the location I rented the car from, emailed them, called their headquarters and have gotten through once -- after holding for a whopping (I kid you not) 40 minutes!! I explained to the person I spoke with that I was told the $150 was a deposit to guard against any damages that should happen to the car while in my possession and that once the car was returned in the shape I received it in -- including gas -- I would be refunded these charges. The car was returned in perfect condition but I was only refunded approximately $12. The representative then told me that I was charged for insurance on the car. My response was that I refused it when I booked the rental online. The girl at the rental counter never even mentioned any liability insurance to me. After spending six hours on a plane and then waiting in line for an hour, I signed where she told me to, she took the paper back and gave me the keys. That was the end of the transaction as far as I was concerned. The representative told me the manager would have to call me back, but no one ever did.
I felt I had no other option but to file a dispute through my credit card company, Bank of America. While Fox could not contact me, they've been on top of my dispute, including lying about why the charge appeared on my card in the first place. Even though I've contested their claims I've been denied twice, because as Bank of America so eloquently put it:
"By giving your account number to the merchant and/or signing the sales slip for the amount that you were billed, you authorized them to bill your account for the amount in question. Also, rental agencies typically reserve the right to bill for amounts that cannot be determined at the time of rental, such as extra miles, extra days, violations, and refueling."
On top of all of this, Bank of America has also notified the credit reporting agencies of "my concerns" and asked them to make a notation on my credit file. Suffice to say that I will never rent with Fox Rent A Car again nor will I sign anything I am too tired to thoughtfully consider and read; but more importantly, what does this mean for my credit?
-- Lakeva Morman
A: This is – as you know – quite a mess. Let me start by saying that I contacted Fox Rent A Car repeatedly, leaving several messages on their corporate voicemail as well as on individual employee voicemails, detailing your situation and my deadline, and didn't receive a call back. So I'm not at all surprised that you had trouble getting in touch with someone from the company, and when you finally did, they didn't return your call.
I, like you, turned to Bank of America. Anne Pace, a spokesperson for the company, was much more helpful and offered to look into the situation for us, even though the issue here has little to do with the bank. She came back to me and said that while it's clearly a problem with the rental car company, Bank of America investigated the issue on your behalf and, in that process, obtained your sales slip from Fox. Unfortunately, it shows that you did initial for the insurance coverage.
Because I can't get in touch with anyone from Fox, my best guess is that you were actually refunded that $150 deposit, but the insurance coverage cut into that refund, making your total more than you were expecting. That's why the final charge was only slightly less. Of course, as I said, I'm just trying to connect the dots, and we can't be sure of what happened here without Fox's cooperation.
What I was able to confirm is that Bank of America placed a note on your credit file about the dispute, but it is simply a notation and shouldn't impact your score at all. But because of your concerns, Pace says that she is researching to see if that note can be removed. Either way, I'd like you to pull your credit report in the next month or so (you can get a free copy from annualcreditreport.com) to see if anything is amiss.
Finally, I have two more things to say about this. First, a lesson you already learned: No matter how tired you are, or how much fine print there is, you should always, always read a contract thoroughly, front to back, before you sign anything.
And second, there are times when it makes sense to shell out a little more money to deal with a reputable company. I'm not saying that Fox Rent A Car isn't reputable – they get a solid B+ from the Better Business Bureau – but based on our experiences, their customer service certainly seems to be lacking. A quick Google search tells me that others agree – they have low marks on Yelp, with several complaints about extra fees and non-refunded deposits, and there are seven negative postings about the company with Rip-off Report.
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