The San Francisco City Attorney’s office says it has settled a nearly two-year-old lawsuit with the Hertz Corporation rental car company centered around secret charges leveled at customers who cross the Golden Gate Bridge, with the company promising to drop the practice and pay millions to the city.
In March of 2017, City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued Herrera sued Hertz, accusing the company of hustling drivers with its “Plate Pass” system for bridge tolls:
Customers neither choose the service nor receive sufficient notice to avoid it. They neither receive its supposed benefits nor consent to its charges. Instead by simply driving over the Golden Gate Bridge a single time, as millions of tourists do each year, each customers is charged not only the undercounted toll rate but up to $24.75 in extra fees.
[...] Since 2009, defendants have enabled every Hertz car in California with Plate Pass. The service permits Hertz customers to bypass cash lanes and use the faster electronic lanes on California’s eight toll bridge [without FasTrak].
Regular Bay Area commuters can already spot the problem: The Golden Gate Bridge did away with cash tolls in 2013, making the Plate Pass feature redundant.
The Golden Gate Bridge Transit District estimated in 2013 that only 30 percent of bridge users paid tolls in cash. Of those, about 6.6 percent were rental cars. Now it’s zero percent, but not because of any service offered by car companies themselves.
The result of this arrangement was often an almost $32 fee to drive over the bridge one time.
In response to the suit, Hertz attorneys claimed that the company made “numerous and robust disclosures” about the toll systems in its cars “at a price expressly disclosed in the Hertz rental contract.”
The company also said that it’s the transit district’s job to tell people how to pay for the bridge. Herrera contended that Hertz went out of its way to obfuscate how its toll system works.
After years of legal wrangling, the company promises to inform customers more explicitly about how Golden Gate Bridge tolls work and how drivers can pay the fees.
Hertz will also pay $3.65 million to the city “for future consumer protection enforcement,” according to the city attorney.