9/27/2018Florida AG Takes On Toll Road PlatePass Fees
PlatePass toll road fines called fraudulent in lawsuit filed by Florida attorney general.
Florida's top law enforcement official believes motorists are being ripped off. In a lawsuit filed last month, attorney general Pam Bondi (R) blasted car rental firm Dollar Thrifty for the sneaky way it uses toll roads to generate extra revenue.
"Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group extracts thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars in deceptive toll charges each year from its Florida customers, many of whom are visitors who are unfamiliar with the state's 'cashless toll' roads where there is no option to pay cash for tolls," assistant attorney general Laura Boeckman argued. "Use of cashless toll roads without a transponder is not illegal or a traffic violation. However, Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group misrepresents charges for cashless tolls as fines or violations assessed by the state and bills its customers a grossly inflated per toll fee."
Dollar Rent a Car and Thrifty Car Rental charge $10 to $15 each time a rental car goes through a cashless toll, up to a total of $105 over the course of a rental. Since these amounts are automatically debited, customers often are unaware of the charges until receiving a credit card statement weeks after the rental. Rental companies will mention the high fees at the rental counter in the hopes of pushing customers into selecting the PlatePass option, a toll collection service run by red light camera provider American Traffic Solutions (now called Verra Mobility). PlatePass charges $10.49 per day for the length of the rental, regardless of whether any toll roads are used.
"Hundreds of customers have complained that they were pressured into buying PlatePass when they did not need it," Boeckman explained. "Many customers or potential customers are confused about why they would need PlatePass when they believe they could just pay in cash at any tolls they may encounter."
Common sales tactics include leading renters to believe certain roads will be inaccessible without PlatePass or that every road has cashless tolls. Dollar Thrifty rewards rental agents with a bonus each time they convince a customer to pay for PlatePass. That happens more often, the attorney general argues, because renters have no realistic way to review their options in advance.
"Consumers have a difficult time finding information about PlatePass, cashless tolls, and their options for paying for tolls in Florida on Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group's websites, in DTAG's written materials, and from its customer service representatives," Boeckman wrote.
The city of San Francisco filed a similar suit against Hertz last year. The Hertz Corporation also owns Thrifty and Dollar. Florida car rental companies that do not use PlatePass tend to charge $4 per day for the cashless tolling service, an amount that is capped at $20 for the entire rental period.