Rental car company used GPS to fine customer for speeding

link to CNN story

I heard about this on the news. I think the company is within its rights to charge him. The clause was bolded in the contract, and he had to initial that section. It’s not the rental companies fault that this guy didn’t bother to read it. According to the article, he was fined for exceeding 79 MPH 3 separate times, for at least 2 minutes per episode. Nobody forced this guy to drive that fast.

Since when is a business also a kangaroo court? I weep for America. Home of the free, my ass. It’s a fucking police state.


I can see this getting used a lot in places like the Big Island in Hawaii, where all the car rentals have a “don’t drive this car up on the saddle road where the air is thin and the roads are steep and poorly maintained and dangerous but the scenery is really cool and that’s where there are cool volcanoes and astronomy observatories and other enticements” clause.

While the rental companies are, IMO, entirely within their rights to do something like this I imagine the backlash from the public will cost them some business.

I’ve seen ads in the newspapers soliciting local businesses for putting GPS systems in their fleet vehicles. However, their ads were really geared more toward catching employees who were not doing their job. (That is, checking for excessive non-moving time instead of speeding.)

So you think they should have the right to withdrawl $150 from a customer’s account, no questions asked, each time they do something that the rental company doesn’t like, no limit, at their discretion, guilty until proven innocent? Wow. No wonder America is so fucked up.


If the person had signed an agreement stating clearly that the company could do that, then I don’t see how you can claim it’s wrong. That’s what contracts exist for.

In that case, the man signed the contract, so he should pay. But the company should bill him, not take it from his card right away.

But what about the larger question of whether a remote satellite is able to determine if the driver is going with the flow of traffic?

If traffic on the freeway is going 80MPH, most cops will not ticket people even though the speed limit is 55MPH. Why then should a rental company have that right?

I can’t see how anyone can seriously question the right of the rental car company here. They didn’t give the guy a speeding ticket, or refer him to the police, or put points on his license. I bet they didn’t even notify his insurance company. They said, “You signed an agreement not to do X with our car, and did X anyway, so we’re charging you.”

Their cars, their rules. If I loan you my car, do you feel you have the right to do whatever you want with it, including things I specifically ask you not to do? Or do you feel you should follow the rules I set down for my car?

The car company didn’t get him for going 67 in a 65 or something preposterous like that, either. He exceeded 79 MPH for more than 2 minutes 3 separate times. According to the news reports, he was driving around New Haven, CT. Anyone know what the speed limits and traffic are like around there? I’d be interested in finding out.

The rental car company has to protect their interests and their cars. If some yutz signs the insurance waiver, but turns out to be uninsured himself, then drives like a maniac and wrecks their car (and worse, injures someone else), the company is on the hook.

The company has the right to take it - he gave them the right when he signed the rental agreement. I’d bet the language granting them the right to do so is there in black and white, right next to his initials.

As to the flow of traffic argument - the cops here sure will stop and ticket someone if everyone is doing 80 MPH. Their plan is to NOT have all of those cars going that fast. The “everyone else was doing it” argument won’t cut it in court.

My feeling is that the guy is screwed, and that the company will not relent in order to prove a point, but that they may find a few more damaged GPS units in the future.
Or, here’s an idea, turn the stupid thing off.

I had one in a rental a few weeks ago, but never turned it on since, seemingly like this guy, I knew where I was going. Same with the OnStar system: it’s off until you activate it.

Heck, over 80 for more than 2 minutes = on the highway. What is it that you need the GPS to tell you there? “Yup, keep going straight…keep going…keeeep going…”

I’ll tell you this much, like many frequent travellers, I never have to sign anything, I’ve got a “preferred” account where I just walk up and I’ve had it for years, so if they tried this shit with me, I’d be fighting it. Another thing, if I get another car w/ GPS, I’m unplugging it at the source. Fuck 'em. This guy, I think, is a SOL martyr.

Boy, I’m sure heartened to see so many people that are so brainwashed by corporate bullshit that they think that a company has the right to do whatever the hell they want with someone else’s money.

I reiterate: America is fucked.


So, Homer, you defend the right of this driver to do anything he wants with a rental car even when he puts his signature to a document specifically stating that he will not do certain things and will face financial penalties if he does?

You’re right–America is fucked, but not for the reasons you think. It’s because the concept of personal responsibility has gone right out the freakin’ window.

I’m not sure where you suddenly got this anarchist streak, but if you borrowed my car and I told you not to do something and you agreed in writing and then did it anyway, you’d better hope for nothing more than a financial penalty.

As has been stated, it appears this driver agreed to this clause of his contract by signing it. It also appears he was fully cognizant of what he was agreeing to and the penalties he might incur for what amounts to breach of contract. If all this is true, I believe the rental company was well within their legal rights to charge this guy’s card for contract violation.

All that said, the consumer still has control here. The consumer who disagrees with this policy is always free to choose a different rental agency. Presumably, one that does not monitor their vehicles in this manner, or one that does not include a clause like this in their contracts.

Eventually, left alone, the market will work autonomously to sort this out. If too many consumers balk at clauses of this type, companies using them will cease to be profitable and be forced to fold up operations. This, right here, is the reason America is not fucked.

You know, I’m actually a little torn on this issue.

On one hand:

  1. There really is no reason to drive over 79 mph for 2 minutes at a time. I don’t believe there are any speed limits in the country that go above 70 anyway. It’s not like the customer was fined for going 56. I’m tempted to say, “Good for you, fella- next time slow the hell down!”

  2. According to the manager, the terms of the contract were stated clearly in bold letters at top. This is not something the rental company snuck in fine print at the bottom.

  3. I’ve rode in lots of rental cars, and man let me tell you many drivers think they just got a new toy, since they it’s not their car (present company included, guilty as charged by the way). Maybe knowing they will get fined for excessive speeding will make them think twice, and maybe even save a life or 2.

  4. It’s the rental car company’s car, NOT the customer’s. If I lent MY car to my friend, and I caught him driving 80 mph with it, trust me, it would be the LAST time I would let him behind my wheel!

  5. I didn’t see this in the article, but perhaps by installing a GPS the rental company gets an insurance break? Hopefully, and yes I live in Disneyland sometimes, these lowered costs will get passed to the customer, giving them a lowered rate? Well . . of course, there’s the cost of the GPS. I don’t know, food for thought!


  1. It’s really, really offensive to the customer. If I was charged $450 for speeding, I would be pissed too, and never use the rental car company again.

  2. It’s Big Brother. What’s to stop Banks from installing GPS into your car as a condition of a loan? Or your insurance company? Where DOES it end?

  3. Is the technology 100% accurate?

  4. I don’t like the idea of the rental car company just taking the money out of the guy’s account without calling him first. I work for a rental company, and we make it policy to call a customer before charging for excessive damage to a returned unit. You never know . . .the customer might have a legitimate reason for something.

In addition, it appears this is a repeat customer. Obviously the rental company never took this into account, and should have considered giving the guy a mulligan this one time. "Excuse me, Mr. X, but just to let you know we instituted a new policy . . . you drove excessively and normally we would charge you . . .but this time we will waive it . . . ".

  1. Yeah the guy signed a contract, but that’s too simple an argument. As we all know by now ad nauseum, a contract is only as good as the lawyer you hire to back it up! :rolleyes:


I think the rental car company, if they feel they must do this, and whether they legally can will be determined in this court case, insists on regulating customer’s speed, they need to handle it better, and allow the customer to “save face”:

  1. Can’t an alarm be attached to the GPS? If the monitoring service notices the customer has driven excessively for 2 minutes, have it either go off or contact the customer by cell phone, just to give him/her a fair warning, or at least allow the customer to dispute the GPS reading?

  2. The car company should have notified the guy BEFORE taking his money to explain why they were. That is common courtesy!

  3. The rental car company of course does this at their own risk. If I were a rival company, I would print huge ads all over town letting prospects know that we don’t use GPS’s to spy on our customers!

Overall, as a devotee of good customer service, I give the company a thumbs down, but hopefully this driver learned his lesson!!! :slight_smile:

No, I do not defend his actions. I take offense at the actions of the company.

He was wrong to break the contract, that is granted. It is the company’s car, that is granted. The company should retain control of their car, that is granted.

HOWEVER, the company does not have the right to act as judge, jury, and executioner. The company has the right to restrict or remove his future access to their products and services. They can say upon return of the rental vehicle that he defied the terms of the contract and he can no longer do business with them.

But they do not have any right to debit his account. They have no right to deny him of his earned income. They have no more right to do that than a furniture rental company has to charge you an extra $250 because you put your feet up on the rented couch.

UncleBeer is correct, it should work itself out. However, it’s more likely that other companies will see this, think “Hey, easy income!!!” and put even more draconian clauses in their contracts that make it easier and easier to improperly charge their customers for minor infractions.

You cannot claim that this was to guard against undue damage to the vehicle. You cannot claim that this was to guard against insurance liability. This was just a money-making process. How many other customers are going to get screwed like this? Why should anyone support the ‘right’ of a company to weasel every possible cent out of the consumer under the guise of protection??

Even if the consumers are smart enough to not patronize a company that inflicts such damages, what is preventing every company from doing so and removing any choice from the consumer?

Why can we be afforded protections against the government, and against other citizens, but not against business?

Vince has a point about big brother, also. When will the gov’t decide that “for the safety of the public” all our vehicles have to have GPS boxes that track our velocity, and we are automatically ticketed for each traffic infraction?

Finally, this is eerily reminiscent of ‘cut-rate’ insurance companies who give cheap rates, pour their profits into radar gun ‘donations’ to police stations, then jack up their rates when you get a ticket. Why would they funnel their profits into ‘donated’ radar guns? More speeding tickets = higher insurance rates with no liability increase = higher profits.


He signed a contract stating that they do indeed have that right. The practice sucks, but they didn’t do anything wrong by charging him. Why is this so tough?

Idaho (among others) has a 75 mph speed limit on interstate highways. Intrastate it’s 65.
I habitually cruise at 70 (my car likes it, and I don’t notice any significant loss of time).

If it’s in the contract, they have the right. It’s not good business, but like Uncle Beer said, market pressures will be the final judge.

So then might makes right, huh? You can just put anything in your contract, and because it’s in a contract, that makes it right? Day-um! I musta missed that day of class.

You agree to the following terms by reading them: You must now pay me $150 each time you read one of my posts. This is retroactive. (I can’t wait to see the money roll in.)

Just because a company claims to have the right to do something to you, doesn’t mean they do. Nor does it mean they should. Nor does it mean you should roll over and play dead if you feel you’ve been violated, even though “it was in the contract”. Fight. Prevail.



Main Entry: an·ar·chy
Pronunciation: 'a-n&r-kE, -"när-
Function: noun
Etymology: Medieval Latin anarchia, from Greek, from anarchos having no ruler, from an- + archos ruler – more at ARCH-
Date: 1539
1 a : absence of government b : a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority c : a utopian society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government
2 a : absence or denial of any authority or established order b : absence of order : DISORDER <not manicured plots but a wild anarchy of nature – Israel Shenker>

Please show me how this relates to thinking a company does not have the right the bill their customers at their whim, for random amounts of money. Don’t say contractual law, because, IIRC, contractual law allows for renegotiations if you believe the terms to be unfair. I seriously doubt if the courts would uphold his right to renegotiate this contract under the assertation that it’s not fair.