This letter encapsulates my horrific experience with Advantage Rent-A-Car located at the Airport Hilton in Montreal.
I felt it necessary to document the details of my rental experience to warn others of the dangers of dealing with these unscrupulous operators. It makes me shudder to think that such people can continue to operate in such an illegal manner and basically get away with it.
There are documented stories on the internet dating back to 2005 of between 8 to 10 individuals who have gone through the same harrowing experience with the same company(ies) in Montreal and Toronto. It is time that someone took legal action against the operators and bar them from doing business in Canada.
On Monday August 21, 2006 I found Rent-Rite on the internet. I then called the number and spoke with a person named "Arti". She confirmed my reservation at $149.95 per week plus $36.95 for an additional day. As well, she indicated that there would be an additional $10 charge per day for my son (22 years of age), as an extra driver. I received a confirmation number and thought that I had arranged a reasonably priced car rental.
When I arrived in Montreal, I waited for the Hilton shuttle which dropped me off at the hotel and I proceeded to the Rent-Rite counter. However, I did not see any sign of that particular name, When I inquired whether this was Rent-Rite I was told by the man at the desk that it was. In fact, he indicated that they operate under a number of names including EuropCar and Autowise. However, when I completed the contract, it was a formal Advantage Rent-A-Car document and not Rent-Rite.
With respect to insurance, I indicated that I was fully covered for collision under my American Express Corporate Card. I also had $2 Million 3rd party liability under MPIC ? Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation. As a result I emphatically indicated that I did NOT require extra insurance. The person taking the information indicated that all I need to do is initial in the boxes he indicates and that I would not be charged for extra insurance. I did so without reading the small print.
The gentlemen then proceeded to ask for my American Express Corporate card and indicated that he was having a charge of $750 approved on my card ?just in case I received any parking tickets in Montreal?. He told me that this was company policy as the firm did not want to get stuck with parking tickets and the $750 would be used only for that purpose. I felt this was quite unusual and had never experienced this before, but I agreed under these conditions.
We then proceed to inspect the car for damage and found that there was no obvious damage on the vehicle.
After 8 days, I returned the vehicle within the allotted time. Even though I had one hour's grace I made sure that the vehicle was returned early so as not to incur another days' charges. My expectation was that the bill would be in the neighbourhood of $300.00.
After waiting about 30 minutes for someone to show up at the counter, an employee proceeded to check the vehicle for damage. He immediately got down on his knees and looked under the front bumper. He then made a statement that was a precursor for me of the lengths these people go to to extract more money from their clients. He indicated that there were ?scratches under the front bumper which were not there when I had rented the vehicle?. This was absolutely absurd and I told him so. He did not respond but proceeded to go back to the counter to prepare the invoice.
He then told me that I would be paying for 9 days and not 8. I insisted that I only had the car for 8 days and he kept insisting that it was 9. This was finally resolved after a bit of a shouting match.
He then indicated that the bill is in the neighbourhood of $650.00. This enraged me and I realized that I was being ripped-off. His explanation to me was as follows:
- I was being charged $20 per day for the extra driver (instead of $10 as earlier agreed with the owner Arti Sood
- I was being charged for 3rd party liability insurance even though I had clearly indicated that I was fully covered and declined the insurance
- I was being charged in US dollars ? even though I am Canadian and was renting from a Canadian company at a Canadian airport
The person at the counter told me that I had in fact initialed a box on the contract that gave them the authority to charge for additional insurance. I had been tricked by the previous attendant as had happened to others in the past. I had not read the ?fine print? when I placed my initials in the boxes on the contract and I was tricked into purchasing the insurance against my will and instructions.
When I asked about the USD charge he very frankly told me to ?read the fine print?. I have not been able to find this anywhere on the contract.
I was so upset that I did NOT sign the American Express slip and just boarded the shuttle back to the airport. I did NOT receive any other document outlining the actual charges from Advantage and proceeded to call Customer Service at American Express to express my disgust at what had transpired and to have a formal record of complaint on my file regarding Advantage Rent-a-Car.
Just as I boarded the bus and once the driver overheard me discussing the situation with my wife he indicated that "You are doing a great thing". its about time someone stood up to these car rental people . everyone renting a car there has problems . This made me realize that the situation was not an isolated incident and that I was just one of many that have been duped by these shady operators.
When I arrived at the airport and checked into the Air Canada Executive Lounge I proceeded to call Arti to discuss the situation. She indicated to me that I was correct with respect to the $10 for a second driver and that she would provide me a credit for $80 plus applicable taxes. However, with respect to the insurance she would need written proof from my insurance company prior to offering a credit for the amount charged for the extra insurance.
She initially tried to skirt the issue by saying that I had initialed the appropriate box and had accepted the insurance. However, if I can prove that I was covered for a rental car she will provide me with a full credit. I also asked about a $4.95 daily charge and she indicated that this was a standard vehicle license fee. I had no knowledge of this and wondered why this was on my original contract. With respect to the bill being in US dollars she claimed that this is not possible and I must have misunderstand the attendant at the counter, even though another client at the counter heard this being said to me.
Upon my return to Winnipeg, I contacted Manitoba Public Insurance and within a couple of days I received confirmation from them that I had $2 million in 3rd party liability insurance and that I was covered for rental cars in North America. I then faxed this to Arti and after many attempts to speak with her on the phone I finally reached her. She basically started twisting the intent of the document by suggesting that I would need proof that I was covered prior to the rental and suggested that I just purchased the insurance so as not to have to pay the rental company. This was absolutely ludicrous as you cannot drive an automobile in Manitoba without having third party liability. I have had this insurance for almost 40 years !! It was obvious that she was not planning to offer any credit.
During a period of 2 weeks I attempted to send emails and faxes to her but never received a response. Basically, she was stalling to the point where she hoped I would just forget about the issue. I tried on several occasions to get a list of the exact charges on my credit card but to no avail.
To this date, I have not seen an itemized list of charges to my Amex Corporate Account. Arti's (Mrs. Sood) excuse is always that she is ?too busy? to do it. In fact, I have had absolutely no communication from her to any of my faxes or emails.
At this point it is important to realize that I had not authorized American Express for the payment since I had not signed the Amex slip. However, Arti used the original $750 security deposit that was supposedly for parking tickets to get the advance from American Express ? entirely illegal.
I attempted to contact Advantage Rent-A-Car in El Paso, Texas. The person I dealt with was quite friendly and sympathized with my situation. However, he indicated that since the car had not been rented through Advantage directly he had no power to deal with the problem. He did offer, however, to call Arti and speak with her.
I then called Arti again and once I was able to reach her she blew up at me indicating that I had no right to speak with Advantage Head Office and since I was a ?trouble-maker? she would no longer honour her commitment to give me a credit. When I heard these words I hung up on her and decided that other types of action would be necessary to put an end to this unscrupulous ?business?.
I then placed a call to the Dispute Settlement branch of American Express and filed a formal complaint indicating that as far as I was concerned I was responsible for only $304.26 of the supposed bill amounting to $601.27. They agreed to bill me the amount indicated and they would temporarily suspend an amount of $297.01 until the issue had been resolved. Afer approximately 6 weeks, Amex had no response from Arti and as a result found in my favor and I was given credit for the $297.01.
It is interesting to note that I was able to find at least eight (8) complaints that have an eerie similarity to my case on the internet. The circumstances in several are almost exactly the same as my situation. I am now concerned that the Arti will somehow try to charge me for damage to the car's bumper as the company has done to others months after the rental transaction.
It is my sincere opinion that both Arti Ghai Sood and her husband Raj Sood must be stopped from continuing to do business in Canada. They are perpetrating fraud of the worst kind preying on unsuspecting tourists to the Province of Quebec and now apparently to the Province of Ontario. Their treatment of customers is absolutely deplorable.
I have rented cars all over the world and never experienced this kind of outright fraud and deceptive practices anywhere else. Everything I was told by them and their employees was untrue. It is an absolute mystery to me how they can continue to do business this way without the authorities taking action.
This letter is being forwarded to a number of interested parties, including American Express, in an attempt to lay out the facts and to put an end to the continuing deceptions and frauds being inflicted upon innocent people by the individuals and companies noted above. A serious investigation is definitely warranted and hopefully someone at the Provincial level (Province of Quebec) will see the merit in undertaking such an inquiry.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation aired the story on Canadian national television but was intimidated by Arti to such an extent that none of the aforementioned details were noted on the broadcast. A mere threat of a lawsuit caused CBC to basically tell the story without mentioning any names and as a result the viewing public had no idea of the facts of the case and could very well become more prey for the perpetrators of this fraud.
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