Sunday, October 18, 2009

Zipcar Gets Sued

I have yet to take a penny for endorsements. It is always my pleasure to praise merchants and service providers who please me, such as Zenni Optical and to slam merchants like Zipcar, who overcharged me and made no effort to work with my financial limitations.

I thought that I was Zipcar's only disgruntled customer. Now it turns out that there is actually a class action suit against Zipcar The Boston Globe reports as follows on the hype of Zipcar.

"Specifically, the complaint accused Zipcar of unfairly charging customers with a “discreet medley of customer charges.’’ According to the suit, many customers may not even be aware of the charges because Zipcar does not send monthly statements.

The suit cited several charges:

■ Phone fee. A $3.50 charge to talk to a customer service representative even when customers call to report a problem that can’t be handled through the website or automated phone system.

■ Parking tickets. Customers who receive a parking ticket or traffic citation are typically charged for the cost of the ticket plus an additional fee, even when the ticket was issued in error and customers were not given any opportunity to appeal.

■ Late fee. The fee is $50 per hour up to $150, three times the regular charge for a day’s rental.

■ Lost items. To retrieve an item left in a vehicle, customers are required to rent the car again for at least an hour - unless customers retrieve the lost item within three hours after the reservation ended.

■ Inactivity fee. Zipcar deducts $20 per month from a customer’s deposit until the deposit is depleted if the customer has not used the service for 12 consecutive months.

The lawsuit says the charges are “arbitrary and capricious’’ and disproportionate to the company’s actual costs. “Charges imposed by similar vehicle rental businesses are not nearly as exorbitant as Zipcar’s,’’ the lawsuit stated."

Zipcar likes to portray itself as a player in the green revolution, facilitating car sharing. It you take it at its own word, it is the only company of its type. If you compare it to automobile rental companies, it comes off as an overpriced outfit that nickels and dimes its customers to death. When I was a customer back in 2006, you could incur a $25.00 late fee for being 5 minutes late. Now its $50.00 per hour. Zipcar's main advantage is the extent to which it has computerised vehicle rental. If Avis, Hertz and National ever decide to study and duplicate its system, Zipcar could have its wings clipped big time. The main convenience is being able to go to a parking garage, to swipe a card over the windshield and to drive out. Unfortunately, Zipcar is proving to be very expensive. Once you realise your wallet is being picked clean, you the "inconvenience" of regular car rental places is not so terrible.

Zipcar is busy patting itself on the back for being such a great company. But it has become dangerously complacent, covering its rust and rot with "green" paint to distract the public. I'm glad that someone is finally taking them to court. Whatever you can say about lawyers, they do provide some redress. All that money that Zipcar spent denying claims, stonewalling and being inflexible that I detailed in my previous article they now can spend on lawyers. It couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch..

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I worked for the customer service for Zipcar and then they had gone to another company. We never charged the $3.50 assistance fee as we too felt it was unnecessary. The odd time it would be charged. When a member calls in, and we open their account, we have to select the box in order to charge the assistance fee. Now, the new company. God only knows.