A new auto rental company in Houston called Priceless Car Rental was offering low prices to attract customers, only to increase those rates after a customer picked up the rental car. Additional investigation into Priceless Car Rental showed a similar pattern of schemes in other states as well.
The company schemes to trick customers into paying more for vehicle rentals by charging extra illegal fees over $500,000 Supplemental Liability Insurance (SIL). Hardly any insurance companies sell a half-million dollars in supplemental liability insurance for car rentals.
A California man identified as Reza Ganjavi said Priceless Car Rental tried to charge him more money when he returned a vehicle claiming the vehicle was dirty. Ganjavi said the pictures he took of the vehicle’s interior had no trash “I had pictures to prove it, but this appeared as common practice to overcharge people.”
The Priceless Car Rental agent wasn’t finished with Ganjavi yet.
“Then she tried to accuse me of having damaged the bumper(which I hadn’t) and they charged my credit card $1000 for the fake damage.” After threatening to sue, Ganjavi got his money refunded.
Houston Undercover Investigation
An undercover investigation by Channel 2 TV reporter Amy Davis uncovers what happens to dozens of rent-a-car customers daily at Houston’s Intercontinental Airport.
Amy Davis reported, “You may shop around, and choose a rental car based on the lowest price. But if you do, be warned because you do not want to have the same experience as Matt Ginsburg who flew to Houston from San Francisco.”
Ginsburg looked for a rental car on Kayak – days before his arrival. “Priceless was the cheapest option I found for a four-day automobile rental.”
If Matt Ginsburg elected to prepay, the price would have been reduced by 10%. That’s what he did. Totaling $171, he spent $42.75 per day. Priceless Car Rental told Ginsburg to take the Park n’ Fly Shuttle from the airport to their location in Houston where he could pick up the vehicle. It left him far away from the airport.
“A booth, if you will. The word ‘shack’ also fits. Not where everyone else has their rental automobiles,” he says – “a temporary structure with no genuine workers inside. Only two video screens are available for virtual interactions between clients and service representatives.”
Meanwhile, Ginsburg was floored when told by the on-screen agent that Allstate policy and his credit card’s rental car insurance wouldn’t cover anything which meant the additional liability insurance would cost him $40 daily. She informed him that his total was $286 after toll tag costs and other expenses were added in.
Suspicious, Ginsburg said he had already paid for it. “So, I won’t be shelling out $280 today. Do you mean $280 altogether?” – “That’s $280 as of right now,” the agent explained.
After hearing concerns from renters, Channel 2 reporter Amy Davis decided to investigate the cheap car rental service. Davis would pose as a customer to investigate claims that the car rental firm was tacking on hidden, excessive reservation charges.
A Priceless Car Rental vehicle was rented for the reporter through Expedia. Amy reserved a one-day, economy car rental for $44.30. She brought her insurance declarations page to the Priceless booth, but a virtual agent immediately dismissed it, saying it did not provide adequate coverage.
According to Amy Davis’s story, the agent in the video insisted on liability insurance coverage of at least $500,000. For a maximum of $500,000 in added protection. The agent added, “That’ll be another $19.99.”
“Additional liability insurance coverage is not included in your rental fee. You’ll need at least $500,000, and it’ll set you back $24.95 every day. In total, it all added up to $64 after adding in the extra $19.99. These extra fees were buried in the fine small print on the Priceless Car Rental website.
Attorney Discuss Texas Deceptive Trade Practice
Customers who posted negative reviews or filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau did not read the disclaimer and felt misled and trapped.
To put it another way, “Had I said, ‘Ok, I’m done with this. That’s it, I’m not doing it. My down payment would have been lost.” Ginsberg calculated the final sum to be $180.
“The problem lies with the whole bait and switch thing where they tell you one price – but knowing that 99% of the people out there are going to have to pay this price,” Attorney Chi Nguyen told Reporter Davis. Nguyen said Houston Priceless Car Rental borders on the Deceptive Trade Practice Act.
Nguyen, of Pusch & Nguyen in Houston, handles several cases involving automobile insurance. According to Nguyen, almost none of them provide additional liability insurance of $500,000.
“And they know that?” Amy asked.
“Exactly,” said Nguyen. “So, knowing that; that price has to be upfront.” Nguyen elaborated further, “If 99 percent of the people cannot get this price, why are you putting that price? You need to put the real price.”
Reporter Contacts Priceless Car Rental
Reporter Davis called Priceless Car Rental, and the Houston franchise owner confirmed she didn’t need the extra $500,000 in liability coverage. They both acknowledged an error in the language used on the website and in employee communications with clients.
“We called Priceless Car Rental, and the Houston franchise owner confirmed that we didn’t need the extra $500,000 in liability coverage. They both acknowledged an error in the language used on the website and in employee communications with clients.”
Unexpectedly, the company told Davis the extra $500,000 Supplementary Liability Insurance “It was a mistake.”
The website was updated to eliminate the requirement and clarify that SLI for $500,000 is voluntary. Amy inquired as to the method by which those who contributed financially would be repaid. There was a delay in response time from the company.
Later, attorney Mike Dodson for the Houston franchise owners emailed the following statement:
“We will not have completed our analysis and review of the issues you have raised by the time you air your story. However, Mr. Dube has engaged our law firm to analyze the issues and to assist him in bringing his car rental operations into compliance with Texas law. If it is determined that refunds are due on Supplementary Liability Insurance coverage, we will assist Mr. Dube and his company by guiding him through that process, which will be undertaken expeditiously.”
What Option Do Houston Consumers Have, If Any?
Consumers have the right to file suit, even in municipal court. As far as Nguyen is concerned, what Priceless Car Rentals has done (or is doing) is illegal under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The amount an overcharged consumer can recover is three times the original amount. This firm has offices in more than one city. Locations can be found across the country.
Reporter Clarence Walker can be reached at [email protected]