Vehicle recovered but rental company, American in payment dispute
WESTERN BUREAU: Seven weeks after American tourist Antiellia Sterling rented a 2017 Toyota Corolla from Sixt-Rent-A-Car in Montego Bay, St James, the company has only been able to recoup seven days of payment. The other six weeks for which the...
Seven weeks after American tourist Antiellia Sterling rented a 2017 Toyota Corolla from Sixt-Rent-A-Car in Montego Bay, St James, the company has only been able to recoup seven days of payment.
The other six weeks for which the American reportedly drove the car have not been paid for as she has indicated that fraud transactions were made using her credit card, forcing merchant services provider Sagicor Bank to execute a chargeback. An extension of one week in the amount of US$601.00 is being disputed by Sterling and she also blocked all other transactions conducted with the agency.
Sixt has since retained the services of attorney-at-law Lavern Walters to aid in the recovery of some US$3,196.00 (J$500,000), which the agency says it is owed by Sterling.
The American, who has refuted the claims in a social media rant, rented the car on November 7 at the Sangster International Airport and it took the intervention of the police last Thursday, December 23, in Retreat, St Mary, for it to be returned to its owners.
Sixt has said that efforts to get Sterling to return the car after her credit card was declined to cover the extension, plus the extended silence from her, forced the company to report the matter to the police.
The company presented The Gleaner with emails, WhatsApp messages and a letter from Sagicor showing the charges preferred by them for payment that Sterling is disputing as fraudulent, causing the bank to launch an investigation.
Sixt says it has sent all relevant documents to the bank proving that she had rented a vehicle from the company.
In addition, when Sixt retrieved the vehicle in St Mary, the man who was reportedly driving it was unauthorised to do so, and there was damage to the left front sections to the tune of approximately US$591.30.
The car, which had an empty gas tank despite the condition that it be filled before return, had been driven more than 5,000 kilometres.
The challenges being face by car rental companies throughout the country was highlighted by president of the Jamaica Rent A Car Association, Patrick Small, who said his members were suffering as a result of theft, chargebacks and dishonesty of customers.
“One of the biggest issues we face is customers leaving the island without paying. They rent from our members then block the charges. They will even damage the car and feign knowledge, costing our members millions of dollars annually,” Small told The Gleaner.
He said many of the customers are obtaining credit by fraud, which is a criminal offence, but they have not been able to get the police to make arrests.
“It is my intention to ask the police hierarchy to sit with us and work out an anti-theft position to deal with these issues,” he stated.
Local financial institutions are also being criticised by the association head, who charged that they do not stand with their customers.
“At the end of the day we are left with the bag,” said Small.
And although some of the disputes are sent to arbitration, he said that they are hardly notified when they are resolved.
There are 27 members in the car rental association, which comprises the major agencies in the country.
As for Sixt, they explained their trajectory with Sterling in a letter to The Gleaner, stating the American woman had a prepaid reservation, starting November 7 and ending on November 16, with payment of US$482.67.
On or about the 17th, when the contract expired, the company said that Sterling requested an extension by calling the Sixt headquarters in Montego Bay. She was subsequently charged US$601.38 for an extension to November 27; however, when the charges were applied, she reportedly called to query.
Management at the agency said they decided to honour the rate she was given for the first week, but on the 27th, after not seeing their car and reaching out to her, Sterling reportedly said that she had made another request to extend the rental until December 5.
This time Sterling did not go through the local operators, but had sent the request to Sixt International, who were not aware that the Jamaican company was not extending the rental because they were unable to collect.
At the same time, Sixt Jamaica sent messages via WhatsApp to Sterling, advising her that they had no knowledge of any such request. By this time, the vehicle was overdue and another message to Sterling on December 1, stated: “By now we were unable to process any further payments and requested an update evidencing same; however, Sterling did not respond.”
Again on December 3, Sixt Jamaica sent a message asking for an update, but received no response from Sterling. Two days later, another message was sent to Sterling, who responded, saying she had made a request with Sixt International for an extension until December 15.
“We wrote to her that we have not seen the email and we are unable to extend the contract and we are also unable to collect any payment,” says Sixt.
Sterling reportedly responded with two screenshots, similar to what she has provided to The Gleaner, claiming this was evidence to Sixt requesting the extensions. The emails were undated.
On December 6, Sixt sent a follow-up email to Sterling, asking for an update on payment for the extension.
On December 7, Sixt sent a WhatsApp message to Sterling asking her to return the vehicle to their offices as soon as possible to close out the original expired contract and open a new one. Sterling did not respond, and the agency said they stopped reaching out to her.
On December 10, Sixt Jamaica received an email from Sagicor Bank Limited informing them that the customer executed a chargeback request for the US$601.38 charged to her credit card on November 17, which meant she has only paid for one week of her seven weeks of rental, and is also indicating credit by fraud.