SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Hertz will no longer charge hidden fees to unsuspecting tourists who drive their rental cars across the Golden Gate Bridge under an agreement with the city of San Francisco.
“People leave their hearts in San Francisco. We’ve made sure they don’t have to leave their wallets with Hertz when they do,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera, who announced the settlement Tuesday.
Hertz will also pay the city $3.65 million, which it promises to spend on enforcing more consumer protections.
The rental car giant and its business partner American Traffic Solutions drew the city attorney’s ire in a 2017 lawsuit over Hertz’s toll-paying PlatePass service, a feature enabled in every Hertz car since 2009 that allows drivers to bypass cash toll lanes without a FasTrak account.
Customers were not allowed to decline PlatePass when they booked a car with Hertz, and were charged a $4.95 “service fee” per each day of the rental, capped at $24.75, plus an $8 bridge toll.
As a result, drivers could end up paying Hertz $32 in fees just to cross the bridge once, even though PlatePass no longer provided any benefit after the bridge went cashless in 2013.
“Over the past four years, tens of thousands of Hertz customers
have unwittingly paid millions of dollars in PlatePass fees for the simple act
of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge,” the city said in its lawsuit.
Hertz customers often didn’t know about the fees until they received their credit card bills, the lawsuit claimed. They also didn’t know that Hertz was charging them the maximum bridge toll even though Hertz customers are supposed to receive a $1 discount.
But since the beginning of the month, Hertz has scrapped the daily fee and will only charge customers for the days they use PlatePass. The city says that change alone has saved customers millions since Feb. 1.
Hertz is also required to give each customer a “Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in a Rented Vehicle” brochure that details other options for paying the bridge toll by phone or online, and to make disclosures about other payment options on its website.
“Accurate pricing is the backbone of a fair marketplace, but in too many industries, consumers don’t know the true price because of hidden fees. Many Hertz customers were unwittingly paying more than quadruple the actual toll just to cross the Golden Gate Bridge once,” Herrera said in a statement Tuesday.
“The Golden Gate Bridge is an international icon, but charging someone $32 to cross it is simply wrong. We put a stop to that. And because of this case, Hertz has reduced its toll service fee nationwide. Hertz is also now upfront about its fees and disclosing to Bay Area customers how they can pay Golden Gate Bridge tolls directly to the Bridge District and avoid any fees at all.”
Hertz representatives did not return a call seeking comment about the agreement Tuesday.