How Can I Fight an Unfair Rental Car Charge?

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Welcome to Ask Clark, a column designed to answer your financial questions, by money expert Clark Howard.

I Rented a Car and Was Charged an ‘Animal Hair’ Fee. I Don’t Even Own a Pet. How Can I Fight the Charge?

Dillon from Illinois asks: “I rented a car in May and was charged a $250 cleaning fee for ‘animal hair’ even though I don’t even own a pet. The truth is that the car I received was filthy when they gave it to me. Unfortunately for me, I only took a video of the car’s outside. It was late at night in a dark garage so I didn’t really notice all the animal hair until the next day.

“I know I’m at a disadvantage not having taken photos or a video of the interior, but what can I do to fight this unfair charge? I filed a dispute with the company and asked that they remove the charge, but they aren’t budging.”

Clark’s Take on How To Fight an Unfair Fee From a Rental Car Company

Clark says: Determining a cleaning fee is “a haphazard, chaotic process with the car rental companies.” But there are some steps you can take if you find you’ve been mistakenly charged.

1. Dispute the Charge With Your Credit Card Company

Assuming you’ve paid with a credit card (as you should have), Clark recommends that the first thing you do is dispute the charge with your card issuer.

2. File a Complaint With the Better Business Bureau

The next step Clark advises is that you file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. “BBB.org will have levels of contact at a car rental agency that you do not have,” he says.

3. Have Your Proof of Evidence

“You don’t own a pet. That is very important evidence, because you are a magical individual if you are able to deposit pet hair in a vehicle when you don’t even own a pet and didn’t have one with you,” Clark says.

“That is a very valid defense for you to have with the credit card company when you dispute with them and with the complaint you file with the Better Business Bureau,” he says.

Car Rental Cleaning Fees: How To Protect Yourself

Want to take preventive measures? Here’s how Clark protects himself from unfair rental car fees.

“What I do is anytime I get into a rental car in the plaza, I look to see if there are any tears in fabric or any big stains and I take pictures of those,” he says. “I do always either shoot a video or take pictures of the outside of the car before I leave the rental plaza because of the possibility that the car rental company may try to charge me all kinds of junk fees after I return.”

Before you drive off in your rental car, always remember to either:

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  • Take pictures of the inside and outside of the vehicle.
  • Take a video of the entire vehicle on your phone.

To hear Clark’s full take on this question, listen to the segment:

Do you have a question for Clark? Use this form to ask him! And remember that you can listen to the Clark Howard Podcast at any time here.

If you have a question but don’t want to go on the air, contact Clark’s Consumer Action Center for free money help.

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