ABC Revs Up Criticism of Car Rental Gasoline Fees

     If you break the terms of a contract, you should be expected to pay a penalty, right? Not according to ABC’s “Good Morning America.”


     “Good Morning America” criticized fees charged to customers who return rental cars without a full tank of gas – part of a standard car rental agreement.


     “The only thing more expensive than gassing up your car these days is not gassing up your rental car,” reporter Elisabeth Leamy explained to viewers on August 29. She said companies across the nation charge as much as $8 per gallon for cars returned unfilled.


     Leamy pointed to attorney general Doug Gansler’s fight in the state of Maryland, where he threatened to sue rental companies unless they charged “reasonable rates.” He called the fees “wrong and outrageous.”


     Leamy didn’t say what would constitute a “reasonable rate.” But in Maryland, Gansler negotiated an agreement that the fee would not exceed 35 percent of the local market price for full service gasoline, or a flat rate of $10 per vehicle, according to a June 12 report in The Washington Post.


     But there are reasons for the fees, including common courtesy and losses incurred by the companies when a car is returned without a full tank.


     “It’s a penalty charge, right,” an employee of the Dollar rental car company told ABC’s hidden cameras. “We give you a full tank of gas, so we expect for you to bring it back full.”


     “Dollar corporate confirmed the company wants people to bring their rental cars back full because refueling is more work for the staff and slows down turnaround times,” Leamy said.


     If customers aren’t sure they will have time to fill up the gas tank, they have the option of planning ahead and paying rental companies for the final refill. Avis, Dollar and Alamo allow customers to pay for a return fill-up before they rent a vehicle. Budget offers similar options, as well as a pay-per-mile or per-gallon rate for trips over 75 miles.