Bizarre new car rental trick: an airport fee for a non-airport rental

by Christopher Elliott on June 30, 2009

When it comes to fees, never underestimate the car rental industry’s creativity. If you do, you might miss the six percent surcharge that Avis slipped on Monica Huchro’s bill last week.

Most car rental companies charge what’s called a “concession recovery fee” when you pick up a car at the airport. The fee used to be included in the price of a car rental, but companies figured out they could break out this surcharge, which covered their lease and cost of van service, and then add it to their price after the initial price quote, making their rental rates seem lower. But the fees were limited to airports.

Not any more.

In Chico, Calif., they are charging customers for airport location percentage fees out of a non-airport lot. I was incorrectly charged $35 once and then $40 the next time. Each time they credited my account after I complained to corporate.

I can’t imagine how many other customers aren’t paying attention to their invoices after they drop their cars off.

I checked the Avis site for an off-airport rental in Chico. And sure enough …

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I asked Huchro about her experience renting from Avis. She said the concession fee was added recently.

I rented there before and there weren’t airport fees. Then I noticed the charges on my invoice and questioned it.

They weren’t able to explain it, they just told me to contact the corporate office. So I did, and corporate credited back my card along with telling me that shouldn’t have happened.

A month later when I rented again, the same thing happened. I brought it to their attention again. This time, on the invoice, the charges read “airport fee” but then they printed a separate invoice from that office and the charges state “concession recovery fee.” When I asked the manager what that meant, once again, he could not explain it and told me to call the corporate office and write a letter.

I did call and again, they credited my card. I’ve never heard anything back regarding the complaint letter I sent months ago. I just think they’re getting away with something they aren’t supposed to be doing.

It odd — and a little ironic — that car rental companies like Avis are imposing these unwarranted fees on their customers. The car rental industry is lobbying hard to keep extra taxes off its bills.

If only it felt the same way about fees.

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  • mike kerry

    Avis is also hitting you up for a $10 extra charge if you keep your car longer than 7 hours over your original estimated return time. Even if you have already paid for a day via the 24 hour rule. Meaning you rent at 5 pm Monday, schedule to return Wednesday at 5 am so you have a 2 day rental. But if your flight was canceled or delayed or you extend the rental for whatever reason at say 4 pm on Wednesday you now have an extra $10 charge. Nice isn’t it? learned that when an early morning flight was canceled and figured I might as well stay and work. It’s the little things that really get my goat!

  • Paul

    When these things happen regularly, the best thing to do is file a complaint with your state’s Attorney General’s Office. The AG office will send a friendly note to the company to which they will have to respond to. This essentially puts the company on notice and the state has a record of a complaint If the AG’s office gets a bunch of like complaints about one company – that’s when companies start to behave properly, as the state will apply some pressure.

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