Friday, April 27, 2018
Politics

Charged too much for a toll by a rental car company? Read this story.

TALLAHASSEE — Paul Powers of Sun City Center feels he got ripped off. He wants his money back. Attorney General Pam Bondi promises to help.

A retired hospital executive, Powers is among the first to seek a cash refund from the state as a result of overcharges by rental car companies that slapped extra fees on their own costumers who didn't pay highway tolls. They didn't pay because their rental car lacked a SunPass device and were forced to drive through one of the growing number of "cashless" toll booths on Florida highways.

While renting from Avis, Powers skipped paying a $5 toll in June. Then Avis tacked on an administrative fee of $19.75 for a total bill of $24.75.

"It kind of irks you," said Powers, 76, a retired chief financial officer at Tampa General.

Those "administrative fees," which show up weeks later on credit card statements, are at the heart of Bondi's settlement, first announced on July 11.

Avis, for example, charged $3.95 a day even on days when a customer never passed a toll booth. The unregulated practice has gone on for years, threatening the tourist-friendly image Florida has spent billions cultivating. One Canadian paper called it "highway robbery." The state Legislature took a look at the problem a couple of years ago but chose to do nothing.

Since Bondi announced the settlement with Avis, Budget and Payless, claims are trickling in slowly, possibly because many affected consumers live far away and aren't aware of the settlement and won't unless they read Florida news sites. Bondi issued a single news release that got limited media coverage. Initial claimants are from East Hartford, Conn., West Babylon, N.Y., Sun Prairie, Wis., and Henderson, Nev., among other cities.

Customers have until Jan. 7 to file claims with Bondi's office in Tallahassee, including the rental agreement number and date the rental began. The settlement affects drivers who rented between Jan. 1, 2010 and July 10, 2017. Claim forms can be downloaded from Bondi's website, myfloridalegal.com.

Bondi's settlement with those three companies could be the tip of the iceberg. Her office has a mountain of unresolved complaints from customers of Dollar Thrifty, which charges the highest fees in the industry. Dollar Thrifty is owned by Hertz, the rental car giant that Gov. Rick Scott welcomed to the state with much fanfare in 2013, hailing the state's "pro-business attitude." Bondi's office says it is still negotiating a settlement with Dollar Thrifty.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose office oversees consumer services in Florida, also has received complaints from frustrated rental car customers.

Visiting from the Buffalo area, Dennis Hohisel of Tonawanda, N.Y., told the Times/Herald he passed two 70-cent toll booths on State Road 112 in Miami for a total of $1.40, but then Dollar Thrifty added a $15 service charge for each toll for a total charge of $31.40. "I am now added as another rube to travel to Florida," Hohisel wrote.

As for Paul Powers, he could be out of luck. He lives in Hillsborough and is a constituent of Bondi's, but rented his Avis car in Pennsylvania and was nailed on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, a clear sign that the practice is national in scope and not limited to Florida.

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] Follow @stevebousquet.

Comments
Mike Pompeo narrowly confirmed to be secretary of state

Mike Pompeo narrowly confirmed to be secretary of state

WASHINGTON — The Senate narrowly confirmed Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state on Thursday, clearing the path for him to take over as the top U.S. diplomat just as President Donald Trump faces high-risk moments on Iran and North Korea.Pompeo, the ou...
Published: 04/26/18
Trump says Cohen represented him in

Trump says Cohen represented him in "Stormy Daniels deal"

President Donald Trump acknowledged Thursday for the first time that his longtime lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen represented him in efforts to silence Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who has alleged a sexual encounter with Trump more than a de...
Published: 04/26/18
HUD Secretary proposes raising rent for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies

HUD Secretary proposes raising rent for low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies

WASHINGTON - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proposed far-reaching changes to federal housing subsidies Wednesday, tripling rent for the poorest households and making it easier for housing authorities to impose work requirements.Ca...
Published: 04/26/18
VA nominee considers withdrawing as new allegations emerge of drinking, wrecking government vehicle

VA nominee considers withdrawing as new allegations emerge of drinking, wrecking government vehicle

WASHINGTON — White House physician Ronny Jackson has grown frustrated with the nomination process to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs and has told colleagues he may remove his name from consideration, two White House officials with knowledge o...
Published: 04/25/18
Sessions defends Trump pardons of Joe Arpaio, Scooter Libby

Sessions defends Trump pardons of Joe Arpaio, Scooter Libby

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday defended President Donald Trump’s right to pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former Bush administration official I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Both pardons were issued by Trump and bypassed the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

SUN CITY CENTER — Millions of women marched on Washington. Thousands of teenagers rallied in Tallahassee and Tampa Bay.And in Sun City Center, nearly 150 seniors held a demonstration for gun control on April 21, offering a simple but poignant message...
Published: 04/25/18

Sean Hannity, a Trump defender, under scrutiny for real estate deals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)ATLANTA — On his Fox News program last summer, Sean Hannity effused praise for his guest, U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson. "I know you have done a good job," Hannity said. "You are a good man."Carson’s presence gav...
Published: 04/23/18
Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

With the third largest Cuban American population, Cuba’s culture is celebrated throughout the Tampa Bay area and in a diversity of ways.Flags hang in homes, fashion is worn, music performed, food served.But be wary of honoring that heritage by puttin...
Published: 04/23/18
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Published: 04/21/18

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Published: 04/21/18