California Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation allowing car rental companies to use GPS surveillance on vehicles that have not been returned within 72 hours after the contract return date or extension of the return date.
Rather than having to wait five days to report a vehicle stolen and seven days to locate the vehicle using GPS, AB2620, introduced by Bay Area Assemblymember Phil Ting in February, significantly reduces the time rental agencies have to wait before trying to reclaim stolen vehicles. Under previous law, rental agencies could only track vehicles after waiting for seven days after the contract conclusion date.
Now, the new law allows rental agencies to locate vehicles via GPS after 72 hours. Before activating any electronic surveillance on a past-due vehicle, rental companies must give the customer a 24-hour notice.
Additionally, it mandates rental companies to electronically communicate with customers, if the renter agrees, and prohibits companies from refusing customers who opt-out of electronic communications. Under the terms, “electronically” does not include talking on a cell phone, but rather suggests being able to send a text message.
As part of the bill, all information regarding potential GPS monitoring and electronic communication must be included in the rental contract. Further, any use of electronic surveillance to impose fines or surcharges relating the renter’s use of the vehicle is strictly prohibited.
The bill was first conceived after a van rented out by San Francisco-based Bandago van rentals was not returned on its due date. With no ability to contact the people who rented it, CEO Sharky Laguana happened to spot the van while driving through the city.
The Governor signed #AB2620, my bill that allows car rental companies to turn on a vehicle’s GPS three days after the due date in order to find it. Thanks to @SharkyL for shedding light on the issue & helping to find a solution to rental car theft. pic.twitter.com/8jJPwny9Tc— Phil Ting (@PhilTing) September 11, 2018
At the time, California law prohibited rental companies from tracking their vehicles until they have been missing for five days past the return date. Missing rental vehicles were considered a contract dispute between the owner and the renter.
Since the San Francisco Police Department refused to apprehend the vehicle — despite it being parked down the street from a station — Laguana took it upon himself to retrieve the vehicle by telling its occupants that police were on their way to recover it.
After the ordeal, Laguana shared his frustration on Twitter. The saga caught the attention of state lawmakers and national news outlets, including the Washington Post. He received word from several state lawmakers who wanted to work with him and other rental agencies in the state to change law and protect their property.
"Changing the wait time from seven to three days might sound like a modest improvement, but it significantly increases the chances of stolen vehicle recovery for car rental companies," he said. "More importantly, we have laid groundwork for a possible further reductions to GPS wait time in the future."
Laguana credited the American Car Rental Association and its members for their assistance in helping the legislation get to the governor's desk.