Customers say car rental app keeps fining them for smoking and kicking them off the platform
ATLANTA — Customers of a car rental app continue to turn to Channel 2 Action News after being fined for smoking in vehicles and kicked off the platform.
The problem: They say they are non-smokers and have never had a chance to dispute the charges.
Justin Gray, Channel 2 Consumer Investigator first reported concerns from Turo app customers in March.
Since then, we’ve consistently heard from customers with surprisingly similar stories.
Turo basically works like Airbnb, but for cars. Turo says it has a zero tolerance policy for smoking. But customers tell us that some car owners seem to be exploiting this policy.
Joselyn Dexter rented a Jeep Wrangler for her solo vacation at the College Softball World Series. The former college player says it was a dream vacation and she gave the car a 5-star rating.
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The problem arose when she was on the flight home and received an email from Turo.
“I received an email saying you were kicked from the app, violated our policies, and were sent to collections,” Dexter said.
This is the same email that other customers have contacted Channel 2 Action News received. All were sent to collections with a charge of nearly $300.
Josh Dempsey, a professor at Metro Atlanta, said he had never smoked a day in his life. But the Turo host claimed he left marijuana paraphernalia in the car after his vacation in Nevada.
“Do I want to pay $300? I am a teacher. No. Everything matters to me, but am I going to let you attack my character? Dempsey said.
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Matt Myrvik said the host initially gave him a 5-star review when he returned his Turo rental at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
It was only after Myrvik messaged the host that he was going to give a negative review that he was flagged for smoking in the vehicle.
“Now my 3 star review is completely gone and when you look at the profiles it has a 5 star rating,” Myrvik said.
In Dexter’s case, photographic evidence of smoking shows a small fingernail-sized piece of paper and a small twig that Turo says is marijuana.
“Maybe I missed something. I’ve never taken a picture of a smell. I’d like to know who has. I don’t understand how these pictures prove anything. I don’t know how prove that I didn’t, except for my own word and integrity,” Dexter said.
She said not only did she not smoke, but also had the car professionally cleaned before returning it.
Turo stands by his decision in Dexter’s case. A spokesperson said Channel 2 Action News that these photos are evidence of smoking. Turo said customers can protect themselves by documenting the condition of the car when they return it.
Turo said in a statement:
“We have a no-smoking policy to protect our guests’ personal property. We also have a detailed travel photo guide for customers, so they can avoid any complaints. In this case, the host provided photographic evidence of a smoking offense and the guest had not provided post-trip photos. »
Travel expert Victoria Walker said startups like Turo often don’t have the staff to investigate these complaints, unlike more traditional companies. That’s why she said travelers should protect themselves.
“For travelers, they’re really going to be on their p’s and q’s in terms of documenting each instance from the time they book to the time they return the rental,” Walker said.
Clark Howard, Channel 2 Consumer Advisor gave the same advice. As with a traditional car rental company: push back, even if it means going to arbitration or small claims court.
“Administratively, they are the judge, the jury, the prosecutor and no one is defending you. You have to defend yourself,” Howard said.
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