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Car rental company ordered to return money withdrawn from customer’s account without knowledge

The Disputes Court found that a woman could not have been responsible for damage to the side of a rental car (not shown above) when she was able to exit through the severely damaged driver’s side. Stock photo / 123RF

A woman who returned her rental car after hours was shocked to discover the company then deducted $2,400 from her credit card for damages she knew nothing about.

The car hire company has now been ordered to return the money after the woman was accused of causing the damage but was not given the chance to defend any claims over how it happened.

The rental company claimed that the driver’s door was so damaged that it could not be opened after the woman returned it to the designated after-hours location: a gas station across from the car rental facility.

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However, the Disputes Court found several flaws in the rental company’s argument, including the fact that the woman appears to have gotten off that side of the car when she left it.

CCTV footage from the area did not extend to where she had parked, but when police examined the footage from the forecourt, it did not show her exiting the car from the passenger side to refuel.

In other words, “there was no damage to the driver’s door when he filled the car with gas just before parking it,” arbitrator Sheryl Connell said in a recently published decision.

Connell discovered that the woman who rented the car most likely did not cause the damage and that she was entitled to a refund of the $400 held as a deposit and the $2,000 that was taken from her credit card before she was told of the damage. .

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The woman, whose name was not identified in the decision, rented the car for two days over the October 21 long weekend last year.

The return date was a holiday and the rental company was closed. The woman was instructed to return the vehicle to the parking lot located in front of a gas station, in front of the car rental store.

The rental company’s service manager claimed that when he picked up the car on his first day back at work, the driver’s side was so damaged that he couldn’t open the door and had to get in through the passenger side.

The company claimed that because the car was not returned to its facility, responsibility for the car and any damage lay with the woman who rented it.

The woman said she was ordered to return the car to the gas station, a system the rental company had used for many years.

He was not told that leaving the car at the gas station would be at his risk or that he would remain responsible for any incident until it was picked up.

The rental company then claimed that the woman had not returned the car at the time specified in the specifications, but had parked it at the gas station within the 48-hour period she had paid for.

Connell found that the deadline did not influence the rental period or contribute to the damage to the car.

He said the renter’s delivery to the gas station within the rental payment period (a full 48 hours from pickup to drop-off) was considered the return of the rental car to the company.

“I accept that, in terms of probability, it is more likely that the damage occurred at some point after she parked at the gas station by an unknown third party,” Connell said.

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He considered the woman to be at a disadvantage and denied her the opportunity to defend her position of non-responsibility for the damage claim to the rental company.

Tracy Neal is a Nelson-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She was previously RNZ’s regional reporter in Nelson-Marlborough and has covered general news including courts and local government for the Nelson Mail.