MANHATTAN (CN) – Drivers who rent E-ZPass-equipped cars from Avis get a surprise “convenience fee” on their bills, justified by vague legalese that the company slips into the fine print, a class claims in court.
“While other taxes and fees are disclosed in the rental agreement and other documents, the fees for using the ETD are not disclosed in the rental agreement or during the rental process,” according to the lawsuit in New York County Supreme Court, which abbreviates the more general name for electronic toll-collection devices.
“Defendant has improperly charged Plaintiff an ETD ‘convenience fee,’ in New York State, in addition to actual toll charges, without proper disclosure.
“Defendant has continued to improperly charge customers without disclosure.”
Lead plaintiff Jodd Readick says the rental contract tries to sneak proper notice through fine print that states: “If you use a car with automatic toll payment capability, you will pay us or our toll program administrator for all tolls incurred during your rental period and all related fees, charges and penalties.”
But this language is “deliberately ambiguous,” Readick says.
“Even if deemed to have knowledge of this section (after agreeing to so many specific fees in other documents), the language is deliberately ambiguous,” according to the complaint (parentheses in original). “A reasonable person could easily conclude that the ‘related fees, charges and penalties’ are based on the actual costs of the device which could mean the actual tolls and other charges for the proper (or improper) use of the device (e.g. backing up in the toll lane or some other fineable behavior). A reasonable consumer could easily interpret the term ‘related fees, charges and penalties’ to mean charges relating to the tolls, not charges related to the rental of the ETD (which are nowhere mentioned). Had Defendants’ wanted to clearly let people know that there was an additional rental cost to using the ETD, they could have easily done so.”
Readick estimates that more than 1,000 drivers could have been misled.
Filed last week, the lawsuit seeks class action damages for violation of New York General Business Law, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.
Readick is represented by Simon Ginsberg with McCullough Ginsberg Montano & Partners.