Accused of adding extra charges onto rental car contracts and violating consumer protection statutes, Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group (DTAG) is facing class-action claims from customers that could advance to trial. According to the McKinnon and Tool v. Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group case, Sandra McKinnon and Kirsten Tool are suing the rental company for allegedly defrauding them and other customers in California and Oklahoma.

After allegedly orally declining additional services such as damage waivers and insurance, the plaintiffs claim that Dollar employees misled them into checking boxes on the electric signature pad that actually added the extra services.

For example, the complaint alleges that because the agent didn’t discuss the total amount charged at pickup, McKinnon was charged an additional $359.65 (from her original online reservation rate) when she returned the car, according to the McKinnon opinion.

“Plaintiffs suggest that defendants rely on the hustle and rush of airports to send their customers away without having reviewed their rental charges, thereby giving defendants a basis for claiming that their customers routinely agree to the add-on charges,” according to the opinion written by U.S. District Judge Samuel Conti.

On July 3, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California refused to dismiss all the class-action claims against DTAG.

“Based on plaintiffs’ reasonably specific pleadings, defendants have a national scheme involving providing low reservation rates and then tricking customers into paying more once they pick up their cars,” according to Conti's opinion. “… Defendants’ conduct is more than mere endemic dishonesty — it is actionable under the unfair competition law as an unfair and fraudulent business practice.”

In addition, Conti found that DTAG’s online reservation confirmation should be viewed as a contract: “Defendants’ refusal to honor the confirmation price in anyway, and in fact to convince plaintiffs of the price’s validity and then alter it secretly, was a breach.”

By Amy Winter