NEWARK – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck today announced ELRAC, LLC d/b/a Enterprise Rent-A-Car (“Enterprise”) will pay $50,000 and overhaul its policies and practices for charging consumers for vehicle damage to resolve an investigation conducted by the Division of Consumer Affairs.
The Division initiated the investigation of Consumer Fraud Act violations by Enterprise in response to consumer complaints alleging, among other things, that the car rental company failed to give New Jersey consumers an opportunity to fully inspect vehicles for pre-existing damage, misrepresented that consumers would not be liable for prior damage but later billed them for such damage, and billed consumers for damage to rental vehicles that did not occur during the rental period.
“New Jersey residents and visitors should be able to rent a car without being hit with trumped up charges for damage they didn’t cause,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “In this case, one rental car company fell short, so we’ve required them to adopt policies to protect their customers from improper charges in the future.”
“Consumers should never receive surprise charges for damage to rented vehicles that was not brought to their attention at the time of the return,” said Sean P. Neafsey, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “This agreement provides meaningful changes, and we will continue to enforce the laws in place to protect car rental customers.”
Under the terms of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance announced today, Enterprise will be required to implement changes to its business practices at all vehicle rental and return locations Enterprise owns or operates in the State. These enhanced practices include:
- Documenting all observable rental vehicle pre-existing damage and presenting the information to consumers for acknowledgement and signature, if present;
- Providing consumers who do not complete the regular check-out or check-in procedures the opportunity to fully inspect their rental vehicle for pre-existing damage;
- Ensuring that any information and records provided by consumers who do not complete the regular check-out or check-in procedures are maintained;
- Supplying consumers with a copy of the completed damage inspection form promptly after check-in of the vehicle;
- Notifying consumers of any observable rental vehicle damage within five business days of a rental vehicle’s return to the company; and
- Providing additional training to managers and employees on the check-out and check-in procedures of rental vehicles, as well as the sale of related services or products.
The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance also requires Enterprise to enter binding arbitration to resolve complaints from affected consumers received by the Division over the next two years, in addition to those already pending.
For a period of two years, Enterprise must also provide a summary of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance to all employees and designate a senior management-level employee to monitor compliance with the company’s uniform policies and the terms of the agreement.
The total settlement includes $20,015 in civil monetary penalties, $11,285 in investigative costs, and $18,700 in attorneys’ fees.
Deputy Attorney General and Assistant Section Chief Jesse J. Sierant of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group represented the State in the matter. Investigators Brian Penn and Cicely Eadie of the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.
The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.