Satellite tracking by rental companies ruled unfair

| 3/1/2002

A Connecticut rental vehicle company that used satellite technology to track and fine speeding customers $150 was ordered Feb. 20 to stop the practice and refund an estimated $13,000.

James Fleming, the state's consumer protection commissioner, ruled the practice was unfair to renters. "It is not a rental company's job to enforce the speed limit in any state."

Acme-Rent-a-Car of New Haven installed GPS units in its vehicles and was levying $150 penalties against renters each time they exceeded 79 mph for at least two consecutive minutes. The company claimed the fines discouraged speeding and covered the excessive wear on vehicles driven at high speeds.

Fleming ruled the fine far exceeded the average 37 cents in auto damage caused by speeding, making it an illegal penalty, not repayment for incurred damage. He also said Acme did not give adequate notice and explanations to customers about how it would use GPS to track their speeds. Acme claims that its employees told renters about the policy and required them to initial the contract to indicate they understood it.

Fleming said Acme has until May 20 to come up with a list of customers who were fined. One customer, James Turner, complained the company withdrew $450 from his checking account while he was on a trip in a rented minivan. The company said Turner was speeding on three occasions.