Fighting Fake Car Rental ChargesAn AFF member is frustrated with their car rental agency after being falsely charged for excess mileage. Not only was the charge incorrect, but nutwood was not notified that the fee had been deducted from their credit card. The erroneous car rental charges were eventually refunded, but only after being disputed several times.

It seems this incident is far from a one-off. Car rental companies can and often do process additional charges after the vehicle is returned. This could be to cover any damage, extra fuel, excess kilometres travelled or a range of other reasons. These additional charges may be legitimate, but are not always. Our members are concerned at how easy it is for car rental companies to process fake charges without first consulting the credit card holder.

Once car rental charges are processed, it becomes the customer’s responsibility to prove the extra fees are unjustified. And that’s if the customer even notices they’ve been billed.

The scenario is a simple car hire in a NSW regional area. As is common, there’s a 200 km/day limit. Google places the job at 186 km from the nearest airport. No problem. Two day return trip, sums add up. Just to be sure, noted odometer readings start and finish. Reality; after hire discovery of $85 charge for 340 extra km’s. Investigation reveals a simple error…

Obviously, once noticed, objections were raised. Time went on, objections repeated. Finally, no explanations or apologies offered, $’s refunded.

Other AFF members have shared similar stories of being charged for excess kilometres when they had not exceeded the limit.

It is quite likely that a genuine administrative error occurred in this instance. But nutwood believes the car rental agency was too slow to refund the charges once it was proven they were incorrect. In addition, charging false fees to a customer’s credit card without their knowledge would be considered fraud in most other industries.

I seem to be getting a lot of this these days so am beginning to wonder. If I exploited my access to customers credit cards to charge for fictional services (ie 340 km’s of excess mileage), I’d be committing fraud.

The interesting thing is that you have to go to the trouble to prove that they are wrong, then they re-pay you money that they should not have taken in the first place and everyone is OK with this. I’m thinking it would be nice if there were some consumer legislation so that in the instance where you have documented proof of an over-charge, such as your example, there’s a penalty involved.

Australian Frequent Flyer has previously reported on a range of scams in the car rental industry. These include charging customers for fake damage and erroneous fuel charges. To protect yourself when renting a car, our members advise to always check the vehicle for damage before accepting it. You may also wish to photograph the car’s exterior, as well as the odometer and fuel gauge when picking up and returning the vehicle.

Right after checking the exterior, the odometer is the second thing I look at, to ensure that it matches the hire details handed to me. It’s usually different but not by the amount in your case. I then check the fuel and take photos of everything.

Most car rental companies will refund any incorrect charges if they are presented with proof, such as photos. Otherwise, a credit card chargeback could be used as a last resort.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: When is fraud, not fraud?

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]