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California City Sues American Traffic Solutions Over Rental Cars
San Francisco, California argues the ATS-Hertz rental car PlatePass program is an illegal scam.

Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, California believes American Traffic Solutions (ATS) has been defrauding the public. The city earlier this month filed suit against ATS and its business partner, Hertz, over the $24.75 maximum PlatePass "convenience fee" that can be charged to automobile renters who cross the Golden Gate Bridge just once.

"Customers neither choose the service, nor receive sufficient notice to avoid it," San Francisco City Attorney Dennis J. Herrera explained. "They neither receive its supposed benefits, nor consent to its charges."

Hertz signed up with the ATS PlatePass program in 2009, equipping all of its California cars with toll transponders that would allow customers to use toll lanes without stopping to pay in cash at toll booths. Under the program, ATS charges renters a $4.95 daily "convenience" fee for this benefit. Even if the renter only uses a toll road once, the fee is added daily until it reaches the $24.75 maximum. Drivers are also billed an "inflated charge" for the tolls themselves.

"Worse, Hertz does not charge and disclose these fees on the receipt it provides to customers upon the close of the renal, but instead provides its customers' confidential personal credit card information to a third party who slips in the charge at a later date," Herrera wrote in his complaint. "These practices are not only unfair, they are unlawful."

The Golden Gate Bridge removed its toll booths in 2013, but it gave motorists who do not have a transponder a handful of options to pay the $7.50 toll. After crossing the bridge, drivers have 48 hours to go to a payment center in person and pay in cash. They can also pay the toll online, by mail or over the phone without any penalty or fee. Because of this, the city argues ATS is not providing any "convenience" at all.

"Since the conversion to all-electronic tolling, PlatePass on the Golden Gate Bridge is a scam," Herrera wrote. "Motorists no longer receive the advertised benefit of faster passage. Every lane is the same and available to everyone, with or without PlatePass and with or without FasTrak."

While Hertz customers can turn away optional services like GPS devices, satellite radio and additional insurance coverage, there is no obvious way to decline PlatePass.

The first conference in the case, People of the state of California v. Hertz and American Traffic Solutions, is scheduled for August 2.

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