Shell Game at the Gas Pump? Renters Sue Avis, Budget Over Alleged Fuel Service Fee Scam

Renters sue Avis & Budget for allegedly charging fuel service fees even when the car is returned full.

Customers Claim "Self-Service" Option Results in Double Gas Charges

When you rent a car and return it with a full tank, you expect to avoid a fuel service fee. But two disgruntled renters are accusing Avis and Budget of a deceptive practice: charging customers a fuel service fee even when they specifically choose the "self-service" option and return the vehicle with a full tank of gas.

Plaintiffs Tyler Livingston and Donald Veach filed the proposed class action lawsuit against Avis Budget Group Inc., Avis Rent a Car System LLC and Budget Rent a Car System Inc. on April 17 in a New Jersey federal court, alleging violations of state and federal law. 

Livngiston and Veach say, when they hired cars from Avis and Budget, they were given the option to refill the vehicles with gas before they dropped them back, thus avoiding a fuel charge.

However, both plaintiffs say that when they dropped the cars back with a full tank, ready to go, they were still levied with a fuel service charge. 

They’re now looking to represent any other drivers who had the same problem, and are demanding Avis and Budget stop “improperly collecting fuel service charges to which they are not entitled.”

Self-service option turns into double payment, lawsuit alleges

The lawsuit says Avis and Budget offer customers three options for fuel when they’re making a reservation to rent a car. The first is a “Fuel Service Option” which requires the consumer to pay in advance for a full tank of gas. The second is “EZFuel,” which allows consumers who drive fewer than 75 miles to pay a flat fee for fuel and return the car without stopping for gas.

And the third is “Self-Service,” which is supposedly meant to allow consumers to avoid paying fuel service charges if they fill the vehicle’s fuel tank before returning it, the lawsuit says.

The fuel service is supposed to be charged only when the rental vehicle is returned with less fuel than was in it when the consumers drove it off the lot, the lawsuit says. The service charge is charged at a per-mile or per-gallon rate.  

But Livingston and Veach say that consumers who select the “Self-Service” option and return their vehicle with a full tank of fuel are still charged fuel service charges.

“As a result, consumers who utilize the Self-Service option are ultimately forced to pay for fuel twice,” the lawsuit says.

Renters seek reimbursement and end to deceptive practice

Livingston said he was duped into “paying twice” by Avis on two separate occasions. 

In 2023, he said he hired a car from Avis’s Albuquerque International Airport location and selected the “Self-Service” fuel option. He says he stopped at a gas station right before returning the car and gave it back with a full tank of gas, which an employee verbally confirmed. 

However, he says when he got his receipt, the fuel reading incorrectly stated the reading was at seven out of eight gallons, and he was charged $12 for a “fuel service.” Just months later, he says the same thing happened to him. He returned the car with a full tank of gas to Avis, and he was still charged, with the company incorrectly stating that the tank wasn’t quite full. 

“As a result, Plaintiff Livingston was forced to pay for fuel twice: first, when he filled up the tank at a local gas station, and second, when Avis charged him a fuel service charge in the amount of $3.12,” the lawsuit says.

A history of hidden fees plagues car rental companies

This is not the first time Avis and Budget have found themselves in court, accused of duping consumers.

In 2023, the car rental services’ parent company reached a $45 million settlement to resolve claims they hit customers with hidden fees.

A class action lawsuit filed in 2011 alleged the Avis Budget Group surreptitiously enrolled renters in an electronic toll payment plan, and charged a "convenience fee," even though there was no mention of it in their rental contracts.

The plaintiffs in this case are looking to represent anyone in the United States that rented a vehicle from Avis or Budget and selected the Self-Service fuel plan option, and were then charged a fuel service charge despite returning the vehicle with a full tank of fuel.

They’re suing for violations of state consumer laws, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and unjust enrichment and seeking certification of the class action, damages, fees, costs and a jury trial. 

The plaintiffs and the proposed class are represented by Joseph G. Sauder, Matthew D. Schelkopf, Joseph B. Kenney and Juliette T. Mogenson of Sauder Schelkof LLC. 

The Avis rental car class action lawsuit is Livingston et al., v. Avis Budget Group Inc., Case No. 2:24-cv-05203-SDW-MAH in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.



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