Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: A step forward on disclosing rental car toll costs

The legal scam allowing rental car companies to rip off consumers for toll road fees marked a low even for a Florida state government obsessed with creating a business-friendly climate. But Attorney General Pam Bondi helped right the scale with an out-of-court settlement that at least requires disclosure of the fee and, in certain cases, provides for refunds. This is the least the Sunshine State can do for residents and tourists alike.

For years, rental car companies have charged fees to their customers who rent cars and drive on toll roads but who can't or don't pay tolls because the booths accept only electronic payments, such as through a transponder. The complaints have escalated as the state has increased the use of electronic-only tolling, angering tourists and residents who see it as the predatory practice it is. With more than 600 miles of toll roads — much of them clustered in South Florida and in the Orlando theme park area — this scheme has given Florida a black eye for no good public purpose, and it is good that the state's chief legal officer stepped in.

Bondi said Avis, which also owns the Budget and Payless rental car brands, had agreed to "clearly and conspicuously" disclose that it charges $3.95 per day to customers who rent their cars and who encounter booths that allow only electronic tolling. The attorney general's office said the three companies also must disclose on their websites and online reservation portals and at their service counters the details of the fee and how customers can avoid it. The settlement requires the three companies to refund payments to customers who are charged for tolls without sufficient disclosures and who have sought but not already been reimbursed for a charge.

The announcement made no mention of other car companies that charge similar or higher fees — most notably Dollar Thrifty, which imposes a $15 administrative fee on consumers every time they don't pay a cashless toll, up to $90 per day, according to attorneys for consumers who have filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Miami. Bondi needs to monitor this deal and continue working to bring a level of fair play across the entire industry.

The Legislature needs to rein in these fees, and Gov. Rick Scott, who regularly promotes Florida as a family-friendly destination, should set an example by calling for the interests of tourism and fair play to rise above corporate profits.

Until then, Bondi's office is a natural advocate for consumers. She is using the influence of her office appropriately to at least warn of the predatory practice and to give consumers an outlet for clawing back payments from the rental car companies. This is, in most cases, a bogus charge masquerading as a convenience. But travelers driving a hired vehicle who are unfamiliar with the roads and forced to use automated toll lanes have no real choices. Bondi has made this a fairer playing field by requiring disclosure. But the underlying practice still exists.

Comments
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18