Published On: Wed, May 18th, 2016

When Cars Have Eyes and Ears: Is Your Rental Company Monitoring You?

At least one car rental agency is drawing fire over its latest installation of cameras inside their rental vehicles. Hertz has admitted that it has cameras installed inside of one in eight of its cars in the U.S. Those cameras are part of the company’s NeverLost dashboard assistant that offers routing help and local guides. But, the company insists that they’ve never been turned on.

Officially, the company has said that that, while it could, it never has.

The NeverLost 6 was launched by Hertz in 2014, and the product has been out for over a year. It’s causing more of a fuss now because more and more drivers are realizing that there’s a camera pointed at their face.

There are reasons to worry about rental cars spying on you, but the NeverLost 6 isn’t one that most experts are worried about. Most rental cars are equipped with navigation and a GPS system. They’re used against drivers in some cases, but they’re also being integrated into rental agreements.

James Earl JOnes in Driving Miss Daisy broadway playFor example, many people rent vehicles to drive all over a state, but they may be staking a multi-state tour. Unless the rental agreement forbids this, the driver is probably fine. But, those GPS systems can be used to alert the rental agency that a driver has left a predetermined or “allowed” area.

In one case, Acme Rent-A-Car of New Haven fined a driver $450 for exceeding posted speed limits. The customer didn’t receive any traffic violations, and the customer sued the rental agency. The judge ruled against Acme. But, the customer didn’t dispute the right of the company to track his speed. However, he did say there was insufficient “notification” to make the fines justified.

Another case involving Payless, a customer expected a bill of $259.51, but was charges $3,405.05. The reason for the charges? There was a $1 per mile fee added to each of the 2,874 miles he’d driven. Because he had crossed the California state line into Nevada, and driven into Arizona, that triggered the fine. The contract explicitly prohibited leaving the state.

Some companies in Florida are known to simply shut off the rental car’s engine if they cross state lines. The cars can be restarted if the driver agrees to pay a new fee.

Most attorneys do agree that this is legal, so long as the agency stipulates it in the contract and makes it very, very, obvious to the customer before he or she signs for the rental.

While not all major brands install cameras and track drivers, many smaller agencies do, and you need to watch out for them. A primary reason, according to industry experts, is that these smaller companies are very concerned about stolen vehicles.

It’s not too hard to imagine a car thief strolling up to a rental counter, handing over a counterfeit driver’s license and a stolen credit card and then driving off in a new $30,000 Toyota Camry.

Scammers can also play an insurance scam. According to Tate Law Offices Houston, a car accident attorney, car accidents are very common — especially in big cities. Scammers might use a decoy “beater” vehicle, causing an accident with the rental, and collecting money from the insurance company for a “totaled” car.

A related scam involves criminal organizations using rented vehicles to commit crimes, then burning the vehicle afterwards.

Honest consumers can usually avoid internal cameras in rentals by renting from larger rental agencies (chains), and asking before renting whether the vehicle is equipped with a camera or monitoring system.

Guest Author :

Elizabeth Holloway is now retired, but has many years of experience working with car rental companies, both at home and abroad when she was a rep. She is enjoying some creative time to herself these days, painting and writing and enjoying the small moments in life.

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