She returned her rent, but Avis charged her an additional $4,228

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Q: I recently rented a car from Avis and dropped it off at Tweed New Haven Airport after driving in from Washington, DC

The Avis desk was closed so I called them and dropped off the rental over the phone. A representative asked me for the number on the key. I asked if he needed anything else from me and he said no.

I haven’t heard from Avis for a few days, so I checked again. Once again a representative assured me that Avis had closed my reservation.

After that I asked several times. I later learned that Avis had closed my rental more than a month after returning my car. Now Avis has charged me $4,228 for claiming I kept the car for 34 days.

But that is impossible. I moved to Germany two weeks after renting the car. Also, the odometer on the rental statement shows it as if the vehicle had been sitting in the New Haven Airport rental lot the entire time.

I submitted gas receipts showing that I filled the tank in New Haven before returning the car. But the evidence doesn’t seem to be enough for Avis. Can you help me?

– Claudia Lockwood, Berlin

A: Avis should have closed your rental as promised and not charged you an additional $4,228. But you returned your vehicle after hours, and unfortunately that means trouble. I’ve had many cases of cars disappearing or being mysteriously damaged after hours. And in almost every such case, the rental company assumes their customers are at fault and charges them for the blame.

Your problem was no different. It looks like you did everything you could to return your vehicle on time. You have called Avis several times. You have checked the return. And yet it billed you for another month.

Here’s what I don’t understand: if you live abroad – and can prove it – how can Avis continue to insist that you drove one of their cars? Where’s the logic in that?

The only safe way to prevent this is to return your car during normal opening hours. You will then receive a receipt, which is written proof that the company has closed your rental. If you need to return the car after hours, ask a representative to email you the relevant documents. And if you can’t, record the phone call (if permitted) and take note of the representative’s name and extension.

Once it gets to that level, you need to escalate your case to someone higher up. I list the names, numbers and email addresses of Avis Customer Service Representatives on my nonprofit consumer protection website at www.elliott.org/company-contacts/avis-budget/. I have contacted Avis on your behalf. She investigated your claim and found that you had not parked the car in the Avis car park when you returned it. Avis eventually found the vehicle and finalized the contract. You have received a full refund.

Christopher Elliott is Chief Advocacy Officer of Elliott Advocacy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping consumers solve their problems. Elliott’s latest book is How To Be The World’s Smartest Traveler (National Geographic). Contact him at elliott.org/help or [email protected]


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