Budget Rent a Car 'may have' engaged in deceptive acts: consumer watchdog
CBC stories lead to agency finding car rental firm charged consumers for damage they didn't cause
A CBC Go Public investigation into Budget Rent a Car has resulted in a Consumer Protection B.C. probe which found the rental agency charged customers for damage to vehicles which occurred either before or after their rentals.
As a result, the company has promised not to charge customers for damage they don't sign off on at the end of a rental unless the car is dropped off after business hours or the consumer doesn't wait for the completion of the inspection.
CBC story led to change in policies
Budget B.C. has also agreed to pay $40,000 to cover the costs of the investigation.
The undertaking says the director of Consumer Protection B.C. has reason to believe that the car rental agency "may have engaged in one or more deceptive acts or practices."
The agency began investigating after former Budget Rent a Car employees contacted CBC Go Public in November 2012 to allege the Vancouver-area operation was charging customers for damage they may not have caused.
The CBC has obtained a supplemental report on the Consumer Protection probe through a Freedom of Information request. It reveals that Budget B.C. made a number of changes to its policies and procedures after the CBC story.
The report says the company advised the consumer agency that it stopped calling to charging customers for any damage found after a vehicle's return.
'Re-inspections' easier without customer
The practice has also resulted in a civil class action lawsuit against Budget B.C. In May 2014, the application to certify the class action was dismissed.
The Consumer Protection report cites an affidavit signed by a location manager and a customer service representative.
"We needed to get the customer out of the branch so that the vehicle could be rented to the next person. To do this, I witnessed employees reassure customers that all the damage had been found," the affidavit states.
"On many occasions though, Budget employees would conduct a 're-inspection' and new damage would be found. Re-inspections were performed without the customer present because it made it easier to charge the customer for damage if they weren't physically there in the branch to complain."
According to the FOI documents, Budget B.C. has also issued refunds totaling $1,727.25 to a total of 13 customers who made complaints.
- An earlier version of the story failed to report that the application to certify the class action lawsuit was dismissed.Mar 11, 2016 1:08 PM PT