Tom Thayer believes in full disclosure. Thayer’s company, Allstate Auto Rentals in Baltimore, Md., displays a sign at the front counter and on stickers in the vehicles that state his company’s rental vehicles may be tracked using a Global Positioning System (GPS).
“Full disclosure hasn’t hampered us,” Thayer says. “If people don’t want to be tracked, guess what? They don’t rent from us.”
Two signs at Allstate Auto Rentals clearly state company policy. One states that "vehicles may be tracked with GPS." The other clearly defines travel boundaries and fees for violating them. Thayer uses his GPS tracking system to monitor a "geofence" around his approved travel area.
Although auto rental agencies have used GPS tracking systems for years, issues involving their use can still cause challenges for operators.
Disclosure is only one issue. Some rental companies assess penalties when the GPS system finds that the renter violated the terms of the rental contract. Recovery is another: Although the operator has every legal right to recover a vehicle from a driver who is not abiding by the rental contract, the act of actually recovering the vehicle can bring additional challenges.
To Disclose, or Not?
Phil Mooar, a Dollar Thrifty franchisee in Buffalo, N.Y., is another advocate of disclosure. Like Allstate Auto Rentals, Mooar posts signs at the front counter and inside the vehicles stating that the vehicles contain GPS units. “I’d rather have them know, and that if they do something, we’ll know where they are,” he says.
A sign at the front desk of City Auto Rental in Cleveland, Ohio reads “Car Rental Special. If you rent a car and give the keys to someone who is not on the rental contract, they will receive a free room downtown courtesy of the local police.” Owner Matt Rawlings says the sign has caused some customers to leave because they did not want to be tracked by GPS.
However, some companies don’t disclose it at all. Dustin Valenti, a Dollar Thrifty franchisee who serves the central areas of New Jersey and Albany, N.Y., doesn’t mention the tracking units to customers, although he believes disclosure might be required by law eventually. “My concern is if you tell the customer they may be tracked, they may try to pull the car apart to locate the device,” Valenti says.
While an auto rental company might worry about some customers trying to find and tamper with the GPS device, Thayer maintains that this has yet to surface as an issue for his company. “Surprisingly, in the seven years we’ve had GPS trackers, we have had zero units disappear from the vehicles,” he says.