The San Francisco city attorney believes it’s deceptive that consumers renting cars cannot pay Golden Gate Bridge tolls with cash and therefore use a toll tracker which comes with an administrative charge when they rent cars. And since the Golden Gate Bridge doesn’t clearly inform consumers of their cheaper alternatives to pay, the failure of rental car companies to spell it out is a further deceptive practice.
The Golden Gate Bridge went cashless in 2013. That was a decision of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District which is headquartered in San Francisco. Nine of the District’s 19 board members are members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors or chosen by the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor of San Francisco.
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Residents get a FasTrak to pay the tolls. If you rent a car, you’re most likely going to use the car rental company’s device and get charged for it. Silvercar charges you only the actual fees incurred. Most rental car companies charge you a hefty administrative fee on top. Though it’s a standard industry practice only Hertz is being sued and not the larger Enterprise or AvisBudget.
Via AutoSlash San Francisco is suing Hertz over these fees even though:
- The City of San Francisco is largely responsible for consumers having to use an electronic device to pay tolls.
- The fee is disclosed in Hertz’s rental agreement.
- The customer is only charged when they use the toll tracking device.
In fact the San Francisco city attorney claims it’s unfair that motorists cannot pay by cash even though the City of San Francisco-dominated board overseeing the bridge is the one that took away that option. But that’s Hertz’s fault.
Since this conversion to what’s known as all electronic tolling… [e]very lane is the same and available to everyone, with or without PlatePass or FasTrak. And Hertz customers can no longer avoid the service and its steep fees by paying their tolls via an optional cash lane — something available to motorists on every other toll bridge in the state.
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The city complains in its court filing that Hertz specify their service “is for use on ‘toll roads’, not ‘toll bridges'” and that consumers complain that they weren’t made aware of the toll (which seems to be the fault of San Francisco, or at least the signage provided by the San Francisco-dominated Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, rather than Hertz).
The major legal claim, according to AutoSlash, is that Hertz fails to inform consumers that they can pay tolls online within 48 hours of using the bridge and save themselves money. (The Golden Gate Bridge itself doesn’t clearly inform motorists of this, either.)
A driver can simply pay the toll online within 48 hours of crossing the bridge at a discount. If the toll is paid within the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District’s timeline, then PlatePass never comes into play — the vehicle owner (Hertz) isn’t notified of the outstanding toll.
San Francisco argues that since the City’s cheaper mechanism to pay tolls isn’t clear to motorists, Hertz had a duty not just to provide a convenient way to pay tolls electronically but also to inform them they could manually pay online which would be cheaper.
I lived in California for many years. I love nothing more than sitting perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset (preferably with glass of California wine in hand). But I’ve long said I wouldn’t ever become a California employer, and this is a good reminder that it’s not worth offering a brick and mortar busines to the public in the state either.