At least 100 Dollar Rent A Car customers complained the... At least 100 Dollar Rent A Car customers complained they've been charged for insurance policies they specifically declined, their attorney says. (Photo courtesy YouTube).
Dollar Rent A Car has been charging customers for insurance they never intended to buy, a prominent consumer lawyer alleges.

At least 100 customers said they verbally declined buying insurance at the rental car counter, but charges for the insurance nonetheless showed up on their final bill, California-based lawyer John Mattes told The New York Times.

Two lawsuits, which may be combined into a class-action case, have been filed against the parent company, Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group, alleging the company engaged in deceptive business practices. A spokesperson tells The Times the company will "vigorously" defend itself.

Here's the crux of the problem: In most of the cases, customers say they verbally declined insurance, including the loss-damage waiver. But they signed for their cars on an electronic tablet, on which they couldn't confirm whether employees actually followed their verbal requests.

The first inkling something was amiss came when they returned the cars – and were billed for the coverage.

In other cases, they had agreed to the loss-damage waiver, believing that they were waiving insurance when they were actually accepting the coverage.

Sandra McKinnon tells The Times she received a bill for $944, nearly twice what she expected, for the 15-day rental of a Ford Focus. She had been charged $23.95 per day for accepting the loss-damage waiver.

"I was instantly furious," she tells the newspaper.

Most of the complaints involve experiences at Dollar Rent A Car, although a few involve cases at Thrifty, which is owned by the same company.

Protect your interests

Here are a few simple tips to protect yourself in a similar situation:

- Get a copy of your contract before you walk away from the counter and promptly correct any errors.

- Call your credit-card company and car insurance agent ahead of time. Find out if your existing policies cover a rental car.

- Cell phones have become handy for videotaping pre-rental walk-arounds with a company employee. Some consumers are using the footage as evidence cars were damaged prior to their rental experience.

- By logical extension, customers could videotape themselves at the rental car counter, verbally declining all insurance and loss-damage waivers.

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