Auto Service World
News   November 20, 2012   by CARS Magazine

Where’s the wrong-doing?

CBC news site accuses Budget Rent A Car of 'systematic and intentional' rip-offs... but fails to offer facts to back up the allegation.

By Allan Janssen


I’ve just read a story about Budget Rent A Car on the CBC news website… and, boy, am I steamed!

Not at Budget Rent A Car, but at our public broadcaster which has published this sloppy piece of journalism!

Ex-employees Reveal Ripoffs at Budget Rent a Car," the headline screams. But by my reading of it, there is little more to this story than hear-say and speculation.

In a nutshell, CBC contends that Budget “systematically and intentionally rips off customers, by grossly overcharging for minor repairs that sometimes aren’t even done.”

Sounds pretty serious. But I’ve gone over the story several times and I still cannot find the facts to back that statement up.

What is really the story here?

That Budget Rent A Car charges customers for damage done to their vehicles? That makes perfect sense to me. Their property has been damaged and its resale value has been diminished. They’re within their right to charge for that. If I lend something out and it comes back damaged, should I not be made whole? It seems completely unreasonable to say otherwise.

That Budget is overly zealous in inspecting the vehicles that come back to them? Wouldn’t you do that if it were your car? How is this an indictment?

That sometimes Budget doesn’t have the repairs done? If we’re talking about a scratch or a window chip, that’s certainly a judgment call on the corporation’s part. They could choose to restore the value of their property by having the damage repaired. Or they could accept a lower resale value offset by a charge to the customer. That is entirely up to them. If we’re talking about charging a customer the cost of a full windshield that is not installed, well, that’s clearly fraudulent behavior. If there was proof of that Budget would have to answer for that. In general however, failure to have damage repaired does not absolve the customer from responsibility for the damage.

That Budge overcharges for the damage done to their vehicles? Here is the expert testimony on that point: “They did it on purpose — charging the customer like way too much.” This analysis from a former lot attendant who refused to be identified. Like… way too much! How are you calculating that? That is a market-driven formula. If people don’t like the charge, they’re free to rent vehicles from another company. As long as the company is upfront about what the charge will be for damages, I don’t see an issue here.

That they are marking up the windshield too much? Again, how are you calculating that? Are you suggesting impropriety because the cost of the windshield itself is only $100? It is not impossible that the cost of the product may constitute only 10 per cent of the installed value. How long does it take to install? What specialty equipment is required? How many people are required to do the install? How much are they paid? What do other company’s charge for the installation of a windshield? Until you fill in those blanks, you cannot say whether a charge of $800 is reasonable or not. Once you have the facts, you make a judgment.

That Budget charges more than one customer for the same stone chips or scratches? I’d need to see proof of that and evidence that Budget approves of that practice before I condemn the company. I can tell you right now, though, that it would not happen to any customer who has the foresight to inspect a rental car before they drive away with it. If you don’t want to be charged for someone else’s damage, do a walk around and make sure you know the state of the vehicle before you go.

That Budget Rent A Car employees are causing damage and charging it to customers? Well, that’s a very serious charge. If it’s true it certainly needs to be dealt with, and sternly. But no proof of this is given. And there’s certainly no evidence that the company endorses this kind of behavior. It would be absolutely outrageous to suggest this is an accepted practice at Budget.

All-in-all, this looks to me to be a case of shoddy reporting.

Many of the so-called facts do not meet a reasonable standard of proof. There is little substance in the observation that “I saw customers that cried. They really cried. They were shocked.” The accusations here do not appear to be rooted in any kind of detailed operational analysis. I’m not seeing anything in the way of documentation that proves wrong-doing.

The corporation itself has conducted an internal investigation that turned up nothing to support the allegations.

It is clear to me that Budget Rent A Car has been found guilty by CBC based on little more than hear-say evidence.

It is sad that the comments below the story, predictably, call for the public tarring and feathering of Budget Rent a Car’s management team. People are not generally very discerning. I’m glad they do not have the authority to carry out the justice they believe is warranted here. I say let the courts decide. And from what I can see, most judges would throw this case out for lack of substance.

Print this page


Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *