My experience with false claims of hail damage, Avis, Purco and what my insurance company and credit card company actually cover

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Feb 21, 2018
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#1
I rented an Impala from Avis out of the Rapid City South Dakota airport mid-August 2017 for about two weeks - driving to Nebraska for the solar eclipse at a National Park and visit other NPs in southwest South Dakota. I've rented often over the years and never had a problem - but, as I recall, I always was able to have an attendant inspect the car upon return. Not this time. No attendant was in the return lot and the attendant inside said he could not leave his post. My wife and I inspected the car, saw no damage, and left. Three months later, I received a phone call and email from Purco claiming $4,700 damage from one or more hail storms that caused dents in the car for which I was responsible as the alleged damage occurred while I was renting the car. I did not drive through any hail storms and don't recall any while the car was parked. I did not take photos - not that it would have done any good ... and you'll see why in a moment.

The paperwork (pdf) from Purco detailed the repair costs, black and white photos of the car with hand-drawn black circles over the areas of the car where they claimed damage caused by hail, and weather reports and maps showing hail storms that popped up six times at various locations in South Dakota during the time I had the car. They did not claim any particular hail storm caused the damage, just one or more of the six storms they reported. From the photos they provided, I could not detect any dents - just black circles around various areas of the car. If I had taken photos, it too would not have shown any dents. What Purco/Avis didn't know is exactly where I was during those two weeks and therefore their weather maps proved nothing. During the trip, I had kept Google Map's tracking feature engaged so I could document where I was at all times; further, I'm a meteorologist and know how to obtain weather records for every moment and place I visited in Nebraska and southwest South Dakota during the time I had the car. No hail storms. I mentioned this to Purco but I my argument was dismissed. I was told that hail storms are a regular occurrence during SD summers so whether or not they could tie any particular storm to the damage and the fact that the Weather Service did not report storms at my locations were all irrelevant. Simply put, "proof" doesn't count; the damage occured while I had the car; therefore, I was responsible.

I provided my car insurer, Allstate, with a timeline of the places I visited in Nebraska and South Dakota and the corresponding weather data that showed there were no hail storms. They were polite and professional but did not seem interested in contesting the claim. I was uncertain about directing Allstate to not pay the claim because I was concerned the entirety of the claim might then fall to me to pay. I mean, other than starting a lawsuit or relying on the good will and common sense of Avis, how do you fight this thing with any reasonable level of certainty? Allstate paid $3500. Allstate would not pay the $500 deductible (of course) and would not pay miscellaneous fees totaling $734 and that included: taxes, administrative fees, and Avis' loss of use of the car. My credit card company, Discover, acted as a supplemental insurer and readily paid the $500 deductible, but they too would not pay the $734. I was left with $734, which I was able to negotiate down to $100. So I did okay. But I haven't yet paid the $100 as I'm thinking of what to do because, you know, this stinks.

Here are my takeaways: 1) this is a scam; 2) Although in the future, I will take photos, they would not have helped me in this case; 3) your car insurer- at least Allstate - will not cover your deductible (which is understandable), but they will also not cover miscellaneous fees; 4) your credit card company - at least Discover - will also not cover the miscellaneous fees; 5) upon return insist that an attendant inspect the car though I don't know how to get that done when the office is closed or the attendant refuses to leave their post; and 6) check detailed policies of your card company and see if they cover the miscellaneous fees that Discover would not cover.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#3
Here is the link for the thread to which Neil referred (for future reference):
Car Rentals: Dealing with Damage Claims

And I agree with Neil about the pictures (before and after). Taking them provides proof that there was no damage. Success in that process depends on capturing the photos at the right angle so that the light reflects off the surface. There is a link about this in the aforementioned thread.
 
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Feb 21, 2018
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#4
My photos would have shown no damage; even the photos from Avis/Purco did not show any damage, just photos with hand drawn circles around what they purported to be damage. I told Purco that I could not see any damage in their own photos and they were dismissive saying that there certainly was damage as "evidenced" by the repair detail. The repair detail included descriptions of numerous dents that were repaired. The dents were described as the size of a nickel or quarter - none larger.

As I noted, I plan to take photos from now on but I fail to see how, in the world of the rental car companies, it is proof. The best solution is to get an attendant to check the vehicle on its return, which I know is not always possible. But I will take photos nonetheless.

BTW, I wish I was aware of this web site when I was planning on fighting the claim as it is fantastic. Despite a lot of web searching, I just came across it yesterday. And thanks for the links, which I will definitely address today.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#5
Without photos of your own clearly showing no damage, they can offer their photos and still "claim" any damage they want (which they have done). With your photos (again with the proper lighting), you have counter proof that there was definitively, no damage. Absent photos taken by you, their version will win the day.

And there may be times when an attendant is asked to note damage but does not. It has happened.

I imagine it this way: They claim damage and you respond saying that you have photos (time and date stamped) that clearly show no damage. Then you appeal to an executive and include your own photos. I would expect the case to be dropped at that point ...

(BTW, I always take pictures of the license plate and the odometer as well)
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#6
You need the stop dealing with Purco and use our company contacts to write to the corporptatw offices at Avis. The corporate office is the one who can get Purco to drop this.

Use the advice in our thread about fighting the damage and start writing to Avis. In almost every case that had followed the thread the cases were dropped.

Going forward if they give you keys to a car that has damage- tell them either they come out and mark the damage on your car or give you another car.
 
Feb 21, 2018
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#7
Here is an update on my complaint with Avis:

1. I sent an email Avis Customer Service (custserv@avis.com). A few days later I received a reply informing me that they would not step in and assist. I was instructed to deal with the contacts in the letter I received, i.e., Purco. Strangely, Avis' note included the following sentence that seems to be their justification for not helping me: "Our Customer Service group will not have access to the rental or damage details within the letter they have mailed to you."

I wasn't sure of the meaning of that sentence. (They don't have access to the letter or they have the letter but don't have access to rental or damage details? Between my note and the letter, which I attached in my email, rental and damage details were easily accessible.)

2. I did not respond to Customer Service but, instead, sent a note to becky.peachey@avisbudget.com, an address listed as an Executive Contact and Customer Service Manager at Avis. Today is the fifth work day since I sent the note and I have not received a response.

I was polite and on-point in my messages.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
12,772
12,753
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#8
Our advice is to wait a week in between each letter and then move to the next executive. When you move to the one above Becky, state you sent her an email on XX/XX and have not reveal bed a response. Name names .
 
Feb 21, 2018
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#9
Situation resolved. Purco waived the remaining $100. Here is how it went down, kinda crazy:

  • I sent an email to Becky Peachey, Avis Customer Service Manager, asking if she had received my note from five work days earlier. Almost immediately, she responded with a sorry that she did not reply as she did receive it. Also, she wrote that I should hear from someone in the Avis Executive Team shortly. That person did call but we played telephone tag for a day until we finally connected.
  • Later that day, I received a letter (not an email) from Purco saying that the case is closed and I need do nothing more – meaning, I don’t owe them the remaining $100.
  • Here is where it got weird. The next day I received a letter (not an email) from the Avis Budget Group Corporate Security Department telling me that I’m no longer welcome, “…the Avis Budget Group … are no longer able to service your rental car needs.” Security Department? They don’t want me because I challenged their claim of hail damage? A claim for which my insurance and credit card gave them 84% of the amount they originally demanded?
  • The fellow from the Avis Executive Team and I finally connected and had a nice chat. I told him of the letter I received from their Security Dept stating that they no longer want to rent me vehicles. He seemed genuinely surprised. He had me email to him a pdf of the letter I received. He emailed back that he received my letter, would look into it, and get back to me. That exchange took place late last week, and I do expect to hear back from him. Frankly, unless Avis shares names of people who carry “security risks” with other rental car companies, the ban doesn’t bother me. I hadn’t planned to use Avis again. I’ll go back to Enterprise - I had violated my mantra to not change companies you have grown to trust over many years of service simply to save a few bucks.
In conclusion, all is now good. Nothing out of my pocket, my insurance rates did not increase, I learned a lot, I’ll take photos, and I’ll tell people about www.elliott.org.

Thank you very much for your help and advice.
 
Likes: ADM
Feb 21, 2018
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#13
The executive guy is James Tucker. Here is the salient portion of his email last week in response to receiving my email with the "I'm banned" letter that I first received from Avis security.

"We have reached out to our Security Manager to review your rental status. When we have received a response from their office we will advise you accordingly. We appreciate your patience during this process.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to intervene on your behalf."

Until I hear otherwise, I'll have to assume that I'm banned. If I haven't heard from him by later this week, I might contact him. As long as my Avis ban does not impact other renters, I'll simply remain curious.
 
Feb 21, 2018
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#14
Today, I finally heard from Mr. Tucker (Avis executive guy) - my Avis/Budget privileges have been restored! It took an unexpectedly long time to get to this point. Mr. Tucker last wrote me on March 14 - that he would look into my banishment and get back to me. Having heard nothing, I sent him a brief, friendly note on March 26 to which he did not respond until today. Here is part of his comment:

"We have received a response from our Operations Manager. Based upon the information you provided and the findings of our internal investigation, your rental privileges have been restored. We trust that this status change will meet with your approval. We apologize for the inconvenience this matter has caused. Please be assured that your experience was not typical. A copy of our report has been sent to the appropriate manager for corrective actions. "

Reading between the lines, it appears an acknowledgment that someone screwed up and it can't happen again. At least I'd like to think that.

Although it took time, Mr. Tucker was very helpful. Your tips for getting a resolution were great . Thanks again.