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Florida: Car Rental Companies Settle Deceptive Toll Fee Complaint
Avis, Budget and Payless may no longer hide the cost of using a toll road in a Florida rental car.

Avis Budget Group
Car rental companies in Florida have been surprising out-of-state travelers with massive toll-related bills. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on Wednesday announced a settlement that will force Avis, Budget and Payless to stop hiding the daily fee the companies have been charging renters who find themselves on a cashless toll road.

With more than 66 million visitors annually, the city of Orlando is the nation's top tourist destination, which means car rentals and toll roads are a big business. For example, the most direct route from Orlando airport to common destinations like Disney World is over the Beachline Expressway toll road, which requires exact change for motorists attempting to pay with cash.

A Florida resident taking this route is able to use a toll transponder to pay the toll automatically. If the driver does not have an E-Pass, the county-run Central Florida Expressway Authority will photograph the vehicle's license plate and mail the owner a bill that can be paid online or through the mail. Avis, Budget or Payless customers are instead automatically charged the tolls plus $3.95 per day -- including days on which no toll roads were used. So a typical week-long rental would turn a $2 toll into a $30 bill that arrives up to six weeks after the renter turns the car back in.

The settlement requires the rental firms to make a "clear and conspicuous" disclosure of all fees, whether a car reservation is made online or in person. All major Florida airport rental counters must have signs explaining alternatives to the automated tolling fees, including how tolls can be paid in cash.

Already, the affected companies have been forced to refund $1 million to consumers who were charged the fees between 2010 and 2017. Renters who have not received compensation for toll fees paid prior to July 10 can request a refund by filling out a form on the attorney general's website.

In addition to the toll fee disclosures, the rental firms may not charge a fee if a customer decides to use his own vehicle insurance coverage in the event of an accident. The rental firms must clearly state the cost of a collision damage waiver, and they may not charge extra for an "upgrade" to a better vehicle when the company runs out of the class of vehicle the customer originally rented.

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