Renting a truck for personal use isn’t often done without the accompaniment of at least a mild level of stress. Adding on the possibility that the reservation for the vehicle may not be at the anticipated location, can result in additional time and energy for the renter.
The Rights of Consumers
An onslaught of complaints regarding U-Haul’s booking policy has called into question what a “guaranteed reservation” really means for consumers. While the renter is provided with a confirmation when the reservation for a vehicle is made, which provides details on the specific date and time of the rental, the location of the vehicle may change. This can potentially require the individual with the reservation to travel to a further location in order to retrieve the vehicle. Depending on where you are directed, this could result in additional time and money, exceeding what the renter had originally planned and budgeted for.
The Consumer Protection Act defines and provides the legal test to determine whether a business is engaging in an unfair business practice. For example, this can include making statements that are misleading and that if relied upon, the consumer is likely to suffer a detriment. To protect their interests, U-Haul is presumably relying on a provision in the rental agreement that states that a preferred pickup location is not guaranteed. Previous case law has asserted that exemption clauses should be brought to the attention of all parties before or during the formation of the contract to ensure customers are aware of potential risks, if the party depending on that contract intends to rely on them.
U-Haul does advertise a “$50 reservation guarantee” in the event the time, place, or equipment size of the truck does not match what was indicated when the booking was made. However, this amount may be insufficient to cover the additional costs incurred to obtain the vehicle at the alternate location. As advised within the Consumer Protection Act, and reinforced in the court decisions, the remedy for misrepresentation may be monetary compensation. It is worth considering why this rental model remains intact due to the susceptibility of repayment requests from those who have been inconvenienced in this way. This may simply be an oversight, as the benefits of providing more accurate information could potentially benefit both consumers and U-Haul greatly.
While there is legislation in place designed specifically to protect consumers, it is important to remain diligent and proactive when entering into agreements such as a vehicle rental contract. The reasonable assumption of what is included in a “guarantee” could result in significant additional stress, and it is best practice to ensure consideration of potential outcomes in advance.