Thursday, December 22, 2016

@Avis, @Budget and the Viking Billing Service Fraud Scam

So we got a letter the day before yesterday from Viking Billing Service alleging damage to a car we rented from Avis.  The paper had the logos for Viking Billing Service and for Budget (who owns Avis or something).  It did not provide too many details but we had rented a car from Avis earlier this year and it did have a large scratch on it when we picked it up, a detail noted by the agent who checked the car out to us.  This was 6 months and 2 days ago.

We contacted Avis by email and the next day, were contacted by Viking Billing Service.  Apparently Avis had just passed it off to them without even looking into it.

Viking cannot provide us with any details about the rental or the actual damage and asked us to call the Avis branch where we got the car.  My wife called and someone promised to get back to her. When they didn't, she called again today. She was told that records are only kept for six months so no records were available, there was nothing that could be provided.   (Again - the rental was 6 months and 2 days ago.)

So my wife called the place where the car was dropped off.  They offered to email her a confirmation, but it was simply the return receipt. Not a checkoff, not an inspection, just that little slip they give you when the car is turned in.  You know how it is these days - they don't look at the cars while you're there, they just have you park in a a row, give you a little slip and send you on your merry way.

So we were later able to determine that the damage report was filed one day after we returned the car, but we weren't able to determine where the report was filed from but my wife thinks it was filed by the place where we picked it up.  The damage report wasn't entered into the Avis system until November.  So far, no one has been willing to provide us with any documentation.

We talked to a lawyer who says that the rental car companies bundle up these claims and sell them to Viking Billing Service.

So Viking Billing Service has already paid Avis for the right to harass you for money (whether or not it's even true) so they're not going to be willing to help you if there's been an error.  And the person assigned gets paid on commission so their only goal is to get you to pay up.  And it's gotta suck to work there.... a 2.4 on Glassdoor? You gotta try really hard to be that bad.  That's worse than Zulily.

And Avis has already washed their hands of it, getting some money. So why should they care if they're sticking the wrong person with the bill?  (Or maybe they stick multiple people with the bill. Would not surprise me.)

We're fighting it.  We're not paying it.  The car was damaged when we got it and we did not damage it further.  And Avis refuses to provide any documentation relating to either our pick-up of the car or our return or the damage report itself.  (We're still hoping that we've still got the paperwork around here somewhere, but we haven't come up with it yet.)

This is fraud. Plain and simple.  Probably someone at Avis gets a kick-back from Viking.  This is Wells Fargo-style "screw the customer" fraud.

Worst case scenario, we'll call the credit card company we used to rent the car and send it to them, but we'll strongly encourage them not to pay it. The problem is, for the credit card company, it's such a small amount they'd probably just pay it because that's the cheapest solution.

We will also be contacting the Better Business Bureau, our state's insurance commissioner and the Attorney General in our state and the Minnesota Department of Commerce (who has fined them in the past for violations).  It would also be nice to find a lawyer who wants to take it on as a class-action lawsuit.

So I don't know if this is an Avis scam, a Budget scam or a Viking Billing Service scam, but it's a scam.  They intentionally wait hoping you'll have discarded paperwork or lost photos (if you took any yourself) and I wouldn't be surprised if they bill multiple people for the same damage. (Searching on Google, apparently this is a Hertz scam and a National Car Rental scam as well. Must be good business ripping people off.)

All I know is that Avis, Budget and Viking Billing Services are either rotten thieves or just incredibly careless, inept and callous -- and danged if they're going to get our money for damage committed by some other renter.  (Danged if they're ever going to get any of our money ever again - when I have a choice in who I rent with, it will never be them.)

Apparently this has been going on for years, must be profitable for Hertz, Avis, Budget, National Car Rental and Viking Billing Services.  Just check out Google.  Seriously, I think it's time for a class action lawsuit.