Hertz rental car customers are being charged steep fees when they cross the Golden Gate Bridge that can add up to more than four times the cost of bridge tolls, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the San Francisco City Attorney's Office.
The lawsuit alleges that Hertz is misleading customers and engaging in unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business practices by charging "toll service" fees without giving customers sufficient notice or a chance to opt out.
The toll service, called PlatePass, is an optional service that allows customers to use the electronic Fastrak lanes on most Bay Area bridges and bypass cash toll lanes.
However, on the Golden Gate Bridge, which switched to a cashless service four years ago, Hertz customers are not given the option of choosing or declining the service.
Instead, they are automatically charged the full, undiscounted toll of $7.50 without the Fastrak discount, and are then automatically charged "toll service" fees on top of that of up to $24.75.
The charges are not disclosed to customers up front by Hertz, but instead are charged to the customers' credit card bills at a later date through a third party service provider, American Traffic Solutions, Inc., the lawsuit alleges.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the practice is illegal under state laws prohibiting abusive practices in the rental car industry.
"These practices are not only unfair; they're unlawful," Herrera said. "Rather than Hertz putting you in the driver's seat, they're taking their customers to the cleaners."
Hertz has not yet responded to a request for comment.