Skip to comments.Rental car toll fees stir backlash that threatens Florida’s image
Posted on 12/16/2015 11:08:36 AM PST by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
Visitors to Florida who rent cars are being shocked by toll charges long after they get home, and enough are complaining that legislators say it could damage the stateâs tourist-friendly image.
In Florida, a tourist climbs behind the wheel of a rental car and enters a world of 600 miles of toll roads, more than any other state. As cash toll booths are steadily giving way to cashless, all-electronic tolling, car renters are being hit with service fees of $4 to $15 a day on top of unpaid toll charges.
The rental car industry calls it a convenience as Florida moves to all-electronic tolling. Others call it a ripoff.
âHighway robbery,â shouted a major newspaper in Canada, a key Florida tourist market.
In Tallahassee, Attorney General Pam Bondi has had an open investigation for years with hundreds of written complaints, but no resolution.
âIâll sure think twice about coming to Florida again!â wrote Bruce Miller of Michigan, who found a $15 administrative fee on his credit card after he drove on the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa in March.
In Miami, a federal judge will decide whether to approve a class-action lawsuit against Dollar Thriftyâs $15 fee for every skipped toll, by far the highest in the industry. Dollar Thrifty says the lawsuit is baseless, and other rental car companies say they disclose all fees charged to their customers.
But the uproar has caught the Legislatureâs attention.
âWe donât want people coming here and renting cars and then getting a feeling like theyâre getting ripped off or getting gouged,â Republican Rep. Patrick Rooney of West Palm Beach said at a recent hearing.
Rooney chairs a House transportation panel that invited testimony from rental car company lobbyists after Rep. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, said the âbacklashâ from tourists justifies a closer look.
Narain cited an article in The Globe and Mail in Toronto in July under the headline âHighway Robberyâ in which columnist Rosie Schwartz described being charged $91.45 for three trips to Miami.
âBeware that you donât become a victim,â Schwartz wrote.
Similar fees are charged across the country, but the Sunshine State stands out for its abundance of both tourists and toll roads.
Adam Cohen of Connecticut came to Florida and was charged $24.75 by Hertz, the companyâs maximum fee for a rental. He told the Hartford Courant that after he complained, the company gave him a credit of $19.80.
Hertz, a crown jewel of Gov. Rick Scottâs job recruiting efforts, relocated its corporate headquarters to Florida two years ago. The company agreed in 2011 to refund $11 million in charges to settle a nationwide class action lawsuit over its toll fees.
At a legislative hearing in Tallahassee, lawmakers questioned why toll fees have showed up on a customerâs credit card bill as much as two months after the rental ends.
Industry lobbyists said the delay is due to third-party toll collection companies having to wait for data from state and local toll authorities and then forwarding it to rental car companies, which then charge their customers.
Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, was dismayed that Avis and Budget charge a $3.95 daily service fee even on days when the driver doesnât use a toll road.
âWhy?â Santiago asked. âI hate to take advantage of our tourists.â
Doug Bell, a Florida lobbyist for Avis Budget Group, noted that the maximum toll fee imposed by the two companies is the industryâs lowest, at $16.95.
âThere is a large infrastructure to create the system and then there is a great deal of effort and time to manage the system on a daily basis,â Bell testified. âIt is an expensive proposition to build and run the program.â
Bell told lawmakers that most Avis and Budget reservations are made online and that contracts clearly note additional charges for tolls. He said quality service is important to rental car companies, which rely on repeat business.
Another industry giant, Enterprise Holdings, which includes Enterprise, Alamo and National, charges $3.95 a day, but only on the days when a toll is unpaid.
The industryâs toll collection practices have spilled into the courts in South Florida.
Marshall Maor, a New York resident, rented a car in Florida last year and was charged $15 for each missed toll by Dollar Thrifty, plus the cost of the tolls.
He filed suit in U.S. District Court in Miami, claiming breach of contract and unfair and deceptive trade practices and accusing Dollar Thrifty of charging much more than the actual cost of the service.
âWeâve heard from people all over the country,â said Maorâs attorney, Bruce Greenberg of Newark, N.J. âItâs certainly a major problem in Florida.â
Dollar Thrifty wants U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez to dismiss the suit. The company says the fee was disclosed in the rental contract and that Maor voluntarily paid it.
In court filings, Dollar Thrifty says no breach of contract occurred and that Maor could have avoided driving on toll roads, paid cash to Florida toll agencies or bought the companyâs toll service for $10.49 a day, which includes all toll charges.
âRather than take any of these three options, [Maor] chose to drive through an electronic toll lane without making any arrangement to pay for the toll he incurred,â the company argues.
Dollar Thrifty also told the court that no law requires that fees charged to customers must âexactly matchâ the underlying cost of the service.
Greenbergâs law firm previously sued Dollar Thrifty in Oklahoma, but a judge dismissed that lawsuit.
Narain, who raised the issue in the Legislature, said rental car firms should improve disclosure of all fees.
âIf weâre not very careful about improving the disclosure process about these administrative fees, weâre going to see a continued backlash,â Narain said. âWeâre going to see more lawsuits.
But in Floridaâs pro-business Capitol, there is no support among legislators to impose stricter consumer safeguards but rather to let the companies police themselves.
âIt could be a slippery slope when you start telling companies what they have to do,â said a Pinellas County lawmaker, Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena. âWith the free market, each company is going to monitor this.â
Well, that’s one more reason for our family to skip Florida again.
Our toll roads are clearly marked. Tourists think they can blow through them because they are in a rental.
Snowbirds: bag your quota early.
Disagree with you-— I was coming back to Orlando Airport on the FL Turnpike and paying a bunch of tolls. On the exit to I-4 the sign for Cash payers was confusing and I veered right and could not get back due to the divider. Since I had a rental car they hit me later in the mail with a $15.00 penalty for a $1.00 missed toll by mistake. Also on 528 in Orlando there are like 3-4 toll booths for a few miles drive. Its stupid and a rip off. I hope they suffer from deserved loss of revenue from all those manned rip off toll booths. Annoying crap by govt...— I know cause it happened more than once to me in FLoriduh.
I rented a Toyota Corolla out of the Ft. Myers airport for $17/day in 2010. I don’t remember any special fees, and I didn’t have to pay any tolls that I recall. Frankly, it was my second best rental car experience ever. (Best was when the company was out of mid-sized sedans and gave me a free upgrade to a Cadillac).
I just have one thing to say here ... Ã¢â¬Å Ã¢â¬â¢ Ã¢â¬Å Ã¢â¬Å Ã¢â¬â¢ Ã¢â¬Å
WTF - I know JR&Co are working on this but sheesh!
Ft Myers and Naples area not subject to the tolls nearly as much as in Orlando area. Why cant they just charge auto rental customers like $10 fee for unlimited tolls during the entire rental duration? How much $$ do they have to rip off via annoying toll stops from visitors and tourists?
You didn’t know that everything inOrlando is designed to separate tourists from their money? Haha.
I never go there.
The only time I got hit when traveling in FL was when I kept throwing change into an unmanned toll. The light wouldn’t turn green. Five or six cars in front of me kept trying to feed Florida money but no green light for any of us.
Telling them them their equipment is broken, apparently, doesn’t help. It didn’t in my case.
(Jeb) Bush’s Fault?
I travel in FL all the time for business.
I go thru the CASH lanes in my rental cars.
I avoid both the daily service fess and the expense report nightmare of getting those charges LONG after the trip report was filed.
This is much ado about nothing - or stoopid renters.
This is the “baggage fees” of the rental car industry. I’ve had a rental company charge a fee for every day that you have the car for the use of their electronic tag. I can understand having overhead and paying a reasonable amount for the convenience. But to use a toll road 2 days out of a 10 day trip (to and from airport) for a total of about $3 in tolls, but be hit with a $7-8 / day fee?
It’s just robbery.
Yes, it’s “disclosed.” Doesn’t mean they aren’t taking advantage.
Care to 'revise' your story?
"All Turnpike tolls are collected electronically between the U.S. 1 (Exit 1) and County Line Road (Exit 47) interchanges in Miami-Dade County, on the Sawgrass Expressway in Broward County, on a portion of the Veterans Expressway in Hillsborough County, and on the I-4 Connector in Tampa, and cash tolls are not accepted. Motorists will use either SunPass or TOLL-BY-PLATE, and everyone will enjoy the benefit of paying their toll without having to stop."
So if you are saying that you pay cash tolls on your rental cars in Miami, well, it appears you aren't really being truthful.
Next month it will probably be $1.71. Then $1.78.
Or they could switch to the EZ Pass system that almost every other toll state recognizes. But that would make sense.
Cash tolls are around the Orlando area— you know — to rip off those tourists and visitors.
I rented a car from Alamo in 2012 and had no extra toll fee. I also have a rental for 2016 from Enterprise with no toll fee.
Agree Just pay your tolls and we don’t have this problem. Pretty easy no?
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