2/20/2019Verra Mobility and Hertz Settle Toll Road LawsuitSpeed camera firm and Hertz agree to pay $3.6 million to San Francisco, California over hidden PlatePass toll road charges.
San Francisco, California city attorney Dennis Herrera on Tuesday announced he had extracted a $3.6 million settlement over allegations that the PlatePass tolling system has been gouging motorists on the Golden Gate Bridge. Verra Mobility, the speed camera company formerly known as American Traffic Solutions, operates the PlatePass service to automatically bill Hertz car rental customers for the cost of tolls and automated traffic tickets -- often charging drivers when they were not using the toll road.
"Accurate pricing is the backbone of a fair marketplace, but in too many industries, consumers don't know the true price because of hidden fees," Herrera said in a statement. "Many Hertz customers were unwittingly paying more than quadruple the actual toll just to cross the Golden Gate Bridge once."
The city filed suit two years ago
accusing Hertz and Verra Mobility (ATS) of violating state state laws against false advertising. The companies charged a $4.95 daily "convenience" fee for using a toll road, but the details of the scheme were buried in a complex terms and conditions contract. Even if a renter uses a toll road just once, that fee accumulated daily for the duration of the rental until they hit the $24.75 maximum, plus the cost of the tolls themselves. As a result, crossing the Golden Gate could result in a $32 charge. Motorists would not see the charge until receiving the credit card statement in the mail a month later.
After a county judge ruled that the dispute was suitable for trial
, lawyers on both sides huddled to come up with a resolution. Instead of refunds to renters, the companies will write a $3.65 million check to the city of San Francisco. Anyone renting in the Bay Area will receive a brochure that explains that they can avoid PlatePass by paying online within 48 hours after the trip. The deal also requires that Verra Mobility and Hertz "refrain from imposing unlawful or unconscionable fees for the PlatePass toll service."
Herrera argued that when the toll bridge still had booths to collect cash payment, PlatePass served a legitimate purpose by speeding the journey. Now that the road uses all-electronic tolling, he says PlatePass "provides no real benefit to motorists."