Consumer complaint to NY Attorney General cost Avis car rental company $275,000
Attorney General Letitia James announced Tuesday that Avis Budget Group Inc. (Avis Budget), a prominent car rental company, will pay $275,000 in penalties for unlawfully denying car rentals to consumers without a credit card.
This comes after an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) revealed that 74 Avis Car Rental and Budget Rent a Car locations across New York state were in violation of the law.
New York state law prohibits rental vehicle companies from refusing services to customers who do not have a credit card. The investigation by OAG found that numerous Avis Budget locations informed customers that a credit card was a requirement for renting a vehicle, thereby putting up “unfair roadblocks for consumers,” according to Attorney General James.
“Having a credit card is not a prerequisite to rent a car to get to work or go on a family trip to explore our great state,” said Attorney General James. “This practice unfairly harms low-income consumers and communities of color who are less likely to own a credit card, and no one should be discriminated against because of their credit or banking status.”
The OAG’s investigation was sparked by a customer complaint in 2022. OAG investigators subsequently visited Avis Budget locations in Buffalo and Amherst and confirmed that they were denied car rentals due to not providing a credit card.
OAG investigators then called several Avis Budget locations across the state, including in New York City and Syracuse, and found that 74 locations refused to accept debit cards or provide other accommodations for non-credit card holders, in violation of New York law. Several locations even displayed signs explicitly stating that debit cards were not accepted.
Most rental car companies allow individuals without a credit card to rent a vehicle by placing a cash deposit or a hold on a debit card. According to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, approximately 30% of Americans do not have a credit card, and low-income communities are less likely to possess one. New York’s car rental law is designed to ensure equal access to car rentals, and denying consumers services because they lack a credit card disproportionately impacts vulnerable communities.
In addition to the monetary penalty, Avis Budget is required to update its employee training to ensure compliance with rental vehicle protections and must provide OAG with compliance reports.
New Yorkers who have consumer concerns or who feel they have been treated unfairly or illegally are encouraged to file a complaint online with the OAG’s Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau or call 1-800-771-7755.
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