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Avis/Budget damage claim?

Discussion in 'Avis/Budget' started by Michael79, Sep 5, 2015.

  1. Michael79

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    Hello all,

    My wife and I are having an ongoing issue with a car rental from Budget. On March 30th, 2015 we rented a vehicle from the Fort Myers International Airport. After loading our luggage and daughter's car seat into the vehicle, we proceeded to the checkout gate. While checking us out of the parking garage, the attendant, whose name was April, notified us that she saw a small dent in the vehicle and asked us if we would like to switch to a different vehicle or just have her document the pre-existing damage on this one. Since we'd had difficulty getting the car seat installed and wanted to get going, we regrettably chose to keep the existing car. (big mistake in retrospect!) April said it was no problem and she would document this so we wouldn't be liable for anything. At the time we thought she was so helpful that my wife wanted to go online and see if she could leave a positive review since April was the one who actually pointed out the damage to us before we drove off. During our trip, we kept intending to take a picture of the receipt but the best laid plans and all.. I'm not even sure at this point what the receipt said on it. Neither of us realized at the time how important this is but we learned a lesson to be sure.

    Sunday, April 5th we return the rental vehicle very early in the morning. It's one of those quick drop-off scenarios, basically we scramble to get the car seat and bags out and an attendant checks us out and drives off with the vehicle. I verbally notified the attendant that April had noted there was a pre-existing dent on the car but it was there before we rented the car and should be documented in the paperwork. She said that was fine and off we went.

    About a month after being home, I received a suspicious letter from "Budget." It was on black and white letterhead, almost looking copied. It was vague in detail, just stating we returned a vehicle with damages and that we owed over $600.00 for the repair. This didn't reference any details of the vehicle, our trip, etc. There was a 1-800 number on the bottom that did not match up to any Budget numbers we could find and an address located at PO Box 46030 Eden Prairie, MN which was not a recognized location affiliated with Budget. My wife and I both tried the 1-800 number just to see who it was and it simply had a generic message and went to a voicemail box. I also found the following website which documents others receiving similar letters as scam attempts:

    http://convergent-outsourcing.pisse...t-money-and-cc-informatio-20121225370205.html

    At the time, I e-mailed Budget summarizing our situation and they got back to me stating they did not show any past due balance for my account. With this information, I was under the assumption that this was all a fraudulent/phishing scam. I received two more copies of this same letter and discarded them since I was so certain they were fake letters tying to get account information.

    This Thursday, September 3rd, I received a letter from Viking Collection Services stating my case was sent to collections. It lists the creditor as Avis/Budget and references an amount of $660.00. The letter is again pretty vague but it states the rhetoric about having 30 days to dispute the claim and they have to send you documentation about the original creditor, etc. Researching this, I found that Viking Collection Services is in fact a legitimately existing company and the address on the letter they sent matches their location in Eden Prairie, MN. I decided to call this company directly at the number listed on their website (not the numbers listed on my letter in case it was fraudulent) and after speaking to someone, they told me there was in fact an existing case for the $660.00 dollar amount from Avis/Budget. She said it looked like it was a "black vehicle was some damage toward the back." This sufficiently scared me since the car we rented was a black Ford Fusion. I didn't give the collections person any information, just telling them I was calling to try and verify the validity of the claim.

    I called Budget yesterday and again, they could not find any balance owed or anything sent to collections in my name. They had record of the trip and the dates and even record of my initial inquiry but stated nothing about owing them any money. This is making me very apprehensive as I don't know what could have happened or what's going on. I'm sending a generic letter certified to the collection agency stating I dispute the claim and referencing my rights in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. They are apparently in turn supposed to provide information about the original creditor. I'm sending another certified letter to Budget's corporate office explaining the situation to them and including a copy of this collection letter. We have not notified our insurance company of any of this because A) we didn't do any damage to the vehicle and B) I was so certain this was all fraudulent. We're honest people, If I screw up and damage a vehicle, I would own up and figure out a way to pay it. I feel like a victim of extortion in this case!

    Anyone had any experience with this type of situation or that can offer any advice on how this could have happened or how to proceed? We didn't do any type of damage to the vehicle while it was in our possession and Budget doesn't even seem to be disputing that claim! I recognize we should have taken pictures and kept better records of everything, lesson definitely learned. We even did another rental through Budget in July and I was sure to keep copies of all documentation and closely inspect the vehicle. (This was a bit easier as we rented from a non-airport location so we weren't rushed.) I still feel as if we're involved in some sort of scam attempt which is making me very uneasy.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this and for any potential advice!

    Michael
     
    #1
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2015
  2. AAGK

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    How frustrating and confusing. Do you have any email correspondence with Budget confirming that your account is settled. If not, reach out to them just stating you want to confirm the assurances they provided on x date and x date that there is no balance due or you are paid in full, etc. The fax those and forward them to your point person at the collection agency. Someone will definitely be assigned to you. I'm sure they don't want to waste their time either pursuing a non existent debt. For all we know, this error was unrelated to the April thing and just a total mess up. I'm so sorry you need to deal with this.
     
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  3. Michael79

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    Thanks for your response! I checked and do not have the initial response from Budget. I e-mailed via their website inquiry form. I did send them another e-mail Thursday night before calling them yesterday and am awaiting their e-mail response. I am going to do as you say and try and get some kind of written confirmation from Budget to use as proof. I have copies of all my letters and record of who I spoke with during my initial call to the collection agency. I regret not holding onto some of the early documentation - I didn't think any of it was legitimate so I wanted to wash my hands of it! I'll work on getting something from Budget and await the response from the collection agency detailing the original creditor and damage claims.
     
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  4. jsn55

    Staff Member Advocate

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    Michael, we hear some wild stories on this forum, but yours is just plain bizarre. Budget says you do not owe for any damage, you know that you did not cause any damage, you know there was existing damage, a Budget employee told you she'd note it. Budget repeats that you don't owe them for anything.

    Then a letter from a legitimate collection agency, confirmed by your phone inquiry? I usually have SOME insight into how a problem could have been caused, but this one, no clue. I know that car rental companies have all been busy merging with each other over the past few years; I assume the answer lies in there somewhere.

    You explained very clearly a complex problem in your letter to us. I would advise that you compose another to the collection agency with a copy to Budget. Boil down the information and politely ask them to investigate your case and explain why they're trying to collect money from you that Budget did not request. Give them a week, then escalate the letter up to a supervisor. Tell them that you are declining responsibility for any damage to the vehicle.

    Meanwhile, enlist the help of your credit card company by disputing the charge. Ask them to make an exception to their time limit because of a potential fraud. You may have to enlist the help of a supervisor.

    Once you finally get the details, we can help you fight the damage claim itself, if Budget has not already dropped it. This could be a Harvard Biz School case study on how not to run a business!
     
    #4
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  5. Michael79

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    Thanks, Judy. Great suggestions - I plan on reviewing the situation with the collection agency once I get information back from them on the validity and origination of the claim. I've sent both Budget and Viking Collections certified letters today: To Budget, I explained the situation in much the same detail as I have here on the forum. To Viking, I kept it brief in stating I disputing the claim and responsibility and noted I spoke with Budget and they informed me there was no money owed to them and they did not send anything to collections.

    I can't do much with the credit card since I was not actually charged for anything yet. It basically exists in just a bill format at this point. I checked my Experian report this morning to make sure there were not yet any inquiries into my credit.

    If and when I receive more details from the collection company, I will hopefully have confirmation of no debt owed from Budget in letter form which I can respond with in addition to detailing the situation with them and asking to investigate further.

    Thank you all so much for the help, it's comforting to at least share with people and see what they think.
     
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  6. Michael79

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    A quick update on this - I received a response from Budget about my e-mail inquiry now stating "The Claims Center and Viking Client Services are authorized representatives of Avis Budget Car Rental. Please follow the instructions within this letter, etc." They go on to say their customer service group is unable to assist in these matters. That's interesting considering the verbal confirmations of not owing anything I received on the phone recently and the initial e-mail response stating the same all those months ago. I called them today after receiving this e-mail and was told they didn't see any past due balances but could transfer me to their claims department. I didn't even realize this was a separate department and was never told so during my previous calls. I tried calling them at 1-866-478-6935 but was put on hold for over a half an hour so I ended up sending an email to claimquestions@avisbudget.com which I found buried in the Budget FAQ on their contact page. I detailed the situation once more and am waiting to hear their response. I asked them if they have any sort of pending case and if not, to please notify Viking Services or send me a letter stating nothing was owed so I could forward that to Viking.

    After receiving the lackluster response from Budget, my wife and I reported this whole scenario to our insurance company and they are now investigating it as well on our behalf. I have not yet received details or proof of any damages, etc. I am now questioning Budget's motive as well, if they're withholding details or giving me a run-around in order to not answer questions about this incident. I'll let you know what I hear next. Thanks for reading!
     
    #6
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  7. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Here is what we recommend when clients get bogus claims like this:

    1. Tell the rental company you want copies of the return reports for the the last 5 rentals before yours on that car and the five afterward. (You want to see if there was damage recorded before and after that they are blaming you for.

    2 a picture of the speedometer showing the mileage number when this was discovered.

    3. Picture of the damage.

    4. The actual repair bill showing what they paid to repair it.

    If they come after you again,ask for all of this. There might be a notation of the damage from a renter before you that should get you off the hook.
     
    #7
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  8. Michael79

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    Seems the inquiries I send to Budget customer service elicit the same response now that they have sent the item to a Collection company. They simply state it is a valid agency and to submit all correspondence through them. I've tried the general customer service e-mail and the social media one and each had almost the exact same response word for word, like it was pulled from a template. I haven't heard back on an e-mail I sent Wednesday to claimquestions@avisbudget.com. I tried e-mailing Diane Karl at the e-mail addresses listed here but both were returned as invalid. I did send my certified letter to their corporate headquarters last Saturday and have not heard anything back on that as of yet.

    Anyone have any other good ways of escalating the issue so someone at Budget will review it? I'm trying to request information about the claim including before and after photos, the rental agreement copy, the damage photos and the repair bill. I have received no detailed information yet about the vehicle and damages. Since I'm having trouble getting something from Budget, I'm hoping the collection company has a way of accessing these since I am disputing the collection. I'm trying to forward information to my insurance company as well so they can review all of this information. I am contemplating sending the specific request for damages and agreement copies to their corporate headquarters next.

    I have not yet filed a case with the Florida Attorney General or reported anything to the BBB. I hear that the state Insurance Commissioner could also be of assistance here? Any help or suggestions are appreciated as always!

    Michael
     
    #8
  9. Grant Ritchie

    Grant Ritchie Dependable adequacy :-)

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    Hi Michael,

    I've sent a request to our research department for updated contact information for either Ms. Karl or whomever may have replaced her.

    Grant
     
    #9
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  10. Trent Bonsall

    Trent Bonsall Administrator
    Staff Member Research Director

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    It does appear that Ms. Karl is no longer with Avis Budget.
    Here is another person to try: Valerie Egen, director of customer service, at valerie.egen@avisbudget.com.
    Please let us know if it works!
     
    #10
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  11. Michael79

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    Awesome - Thank you both for the research! I'll let you know if I get anywhere. Meanwhile, any advice on communicating with a collection agency? I've sent them a letter disputing the claim but was going to send another with specific information requests; namely, what's recommended in this thread about rental copies before and after, damage claim report, repair bill copy, etc. Should I tell the collection agency the whole long story or just keep things vague with them? Thanks again!
    Michael
     
    #11
  12. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    If you have written to the Budget office you booked through and gave them the list of paperwork from the above answers, then send that to the Collection Company but they probably won't do anything with it. They just care about what Budget is telling them to do because they are getting a piece of whatever Budget gets from you. But I would stay safe and report that you are disputing the claim with Budget and that you want the added to the notes of your account.
     
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  13. Michael79

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    Good news to report! After reaching out to Avis/Budget's executive team, they were able to research the details of my issue with the claims department and have closed the case! I received a personal phone call today and they will be sending a letter of confirmation. The management team proved very helpful and quick to research and respond which was definitely a refreshing change. I'm elated this ordeal is at an end and what a learning experience it was in multiple ways. I want to offer a sincere 'thank you' to all of you who helped advise me through this process and provided such helpful suggestions. What you provide is both necessary and appreciated.
    Sincerely,
    Michael
     
    #13
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  14. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    See, it was an error somewhere that got assigned to you. If you requested the forms we told you to request that seems to get many of these cases closed.
    Glad it worked for you.
     
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  15. MtnDawg

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    Hi Michael,
    Your description of what happened to you is exactly what has recently happened to me. Change the rental city and the damage claim and everything lines up. I've already spent a lot of time calling Viking as well as Sedgwick, who recently took on handling these types of claims for Avis, but i've had no luck in getting in details related to the claim.
    I'm going to reach out to Valerie Egan (as noted in Trent's reply above), but is there anything in particular you would suggest I include in my message to help me resolve this matter as you did?
    Many thanks
     
    #15
  16. alck

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    For what it's worth I have the same trouble with Budget/Viking. Caused no damage to the car I had but I think the rental agent gave me someone else's car and when I mentioned it she said she'd correct the records. Right. So someone else damaged another car. Anyway, I wrote Viking (since they never answer phone calls) and copied Valerie Egan at Budget. Three weeks=no replies. I too am shocked that Budget won't talk to me and don't even have a retention department (where managers of NORMAL companies try to keep customers from leaving). Well I rented with Enterprise right after this and told Budget they've lost a repeat customer..
     
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  17. Steve C

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    I got an identical letter in a similar situation although the rental was with AVIS. This forum helped me verify Viking is legit and it wasn't a scam. I had documented the damage before renting the car, had pictures etc. I called Viking, told them what had happened and that I had documentation. I asked what steps I needed to take to have the situation resolved. The rep checked a couple things on her end and then closed the case on the spot. Took about 5 minutes on the phone, although I spent significantly more time than that researching and preparing for what I thought would be a fight. So surprised it wasn't. My recommendation, call Viking first.
     
    #17
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  18. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Those pictures are SO important. They can't argue with a picture. I hope anyone who rents a car and reads these forums will make sure they take pictures when they pic the car up and when they bring it back.
     
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  19. CarlaR

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    #19
  20. CarlaR

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    We've had the identical problem with Hertz! We've gotten collection letters from Viking with no info, no details. We got the letter 1 year after the last time we rented from Hertz on a vacation, and there was no damage to any car. I just found out about these letters from Viking today because my husband has been ignoring them for the past year. What is up with these car rental companies? Have we lost our opportunity to dispute because we ignored them for so long? Can Viking really come after someone more than a year after the rental?
     
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