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Have you been fined for not paying a rental car fee?  It May Not Be Your Fault – Current Affairs – SAPO.pt

Have you been fined for not paying a rental car fee? It May Not Be Your Fault – Current Affairs – SAPO.pt

In 2022, a customer rented a car from a car rental company and paid for the additional rental service from Via Verde, such that the charges were charged to his credit card when the rental company received payment notifications from the relevant agents. Four months later, he began receiving recorded letters, sent directly by road concessionaires to his address, demanding payment of toll fees, as well as administrative fees resulting from failure to pay on time.

Far from being the only person to have been through a situation like this, the client took his reason to the final conclusion and won the case. Europcar had to return the amount corresponding to the rental of the Via Verde service that did not work, user fees, administrative fees, and pay compensation for non-pecuniary damages, for a total that was not a very large value, 132.15 euros, but significant in relation to the principle.

Despite admitting the failure in the service provided, the car rental company has not yet paid the amount, guaranteeing the complainant, although he has 10 days to comply, with the ruling coming on May 6, with the Center for Arbitration for Consumer Disputes in Lisbon, convicting The car rental company for its irregular practices in managing the Via Verde rental service and in managing complaints related to that service.

“We are not talking about isolated cases. This type of complaint is reported on several websites; many times they are customers abroad and they do not even understand the messages they receive. This is an example of the shortcomings of customer support centers and the inadequate responses to them,” says Pedro. “Simple complaints are then taken to court,” Castro, a tourism and aviation consultant, told SAPO.

Except for the customer resorting to legal action, with the rental company found guilty, the case is far from original. There are dozens of similar complaints on complaints and consumer rights websites.

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“Yesterday I was surprised by a notification from the Finance Department to pay a fine of 88.25 euros, related to non-payment of toll fees to Ascendi. This is a vehicle that has been rented for two years and I have not received any notification of payment because, as I said, it was verified after reviewing the file in Finance, and it was the address you indicated The company to the agent is incorrect and, in addition, the total debt owed by Ascendi is 18.58 euros,” said a complaint on the complaints portal.

Another customer using DECO: “In October 2022, I rented a car and rented Via Verde. I received several fines in Brazil for non-payment of fees, including an official protest. I did the right thing to avoid problems, I paid the fees at the rental company, according to the proof attached to the contract Which shows the service I purchased (tariff service) and my card was available…”

But the problem goes far beyond cases where irregular performance of services provided by rental companies results in fines being imposed on compliant customers.

According to the National Association of Vehicle Renters (ARAC), the problem dates back to the date when the government decided to start charging tolls on roads that were hitherto free to the user (the famous SCUT road), which were not set up with parking or infrastructure that would allow Shipping is carried out immediately. The real-time ticketing system does not work, and since it takes road concessionaires at least three days to communicate the amounts owed to car rental companies, many cases end up with forced fees. This is why ARAC has been requiring franchisees for years to guarantee these fees directly and promptly, and to organize payment upon termination of the lease.

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“Often, the amount due is sent weeks later, and in some cases months later, which makes collection from customers, especially foreign ones, complicated or often impossible,” Joaquim Robalo de Almeida confirms to SAPO. “This is the situation that ARAC has repeatedly conveyed to the concessionaires and the Infraestruturas de Portugal since the beginning of this toll collection system, but until now (almost 14 years later) it has not changed, being a situation incompatible with a country of great touristic importance like Portugal,” emphasizes the Secretary. General Car Rental Association. “It is not nice for a tourist who has visited our country, after three months, to be informed to pay tolls for the roads used during his visit to Portugal.”

However, Joaquim Robalo de Almeida emphasizes that the type of “abnormal situations” mentioned above end up being “residual” and defends car rental companies “that are not responsible, they simply charge the amounts due for the tickets and deliver them.” “For them to the franchisees.”

But there is also a question there. When they cannot get payment directly, either because they are unable to notify the customer (Joaquim Robalo de Almeida recalls that within months, the person may have moved out) or because the customer does not respond to the request, private Can the data be shared with third parties? In this case, to whom do the amounts owed to road concessionaires belong?

“The privacy policy of service companies and national and European data protection legislation are clear in stipulating that customers' personal data should only be transferred to third parties when absolutely necessary, which does not appear to be the case” when customers hire a tolling service, Pedro Castro says. People present their credit cards carefully to ensure payments are in order and then find themselves facing fines and collections.

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Since they are “public companies or concessionaires by the Infraestruturas de Portugal, a public company, for the management and management of infrastructure,” the ARAC president responds, the concessionaires are equal to state structures and are therefore administratively responsible as recipients of data for a fee.

In fact, the leases provide for this possibility. The contracts stated: “If necessary, your personal data (…) may be sent to toll collection companies, regarding the information necessary for payment.”

Since a year ago, the Via Verde service is no longer optional and has become mandatory for those who rent a car, and it is also clear in the contracts that there must be an active payment method with a balance that allows the withdrawal of the amount due to be paid in the subsequent days of the car rental. In the case of SCUT, this process can be more complex. “After receiving the driver's identity, the driver is notified to make a voluntary payment or, if possible, provide proof that he was not driving the vehicle on the date of the indicated ticket. Only after the expiration of the period of voluntary payment and nothing once this 'is carried out by the person to whom the Notify him, and the forced collection process begins,” explains the head of ARAC.

But what if a driver complies with everything that is asked of them, yet not only sees their data shared, but also becomes the target of a forced collection? The only remaining option is the judicial route, with the uncertainty of the reward for time and patience.