Have you ever rented a car from a company like Avis, Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, or Hertz? Most people have, and you may have noticed something peculiar when you did. After all the documentation has been signed and you’re ready to take possession of the vehicle, they hand you the key.

However, they don’t give you the key. Frequently, they instead hand you the keys – both of the car’s keys, stuck together on an unbreakable steel lanyard. Shockingly, the company keeps no copies for themselves. They put you, the customer, in charge of ensuring they don’t lose track of the expensive key and the spare.

Usually, this undesired burden comes with a disclaimer stating something to the tune of “average key replacement cost is $200-300.” Take note that this is the cost should you lose or damage one key.

Should anything happen to the inseparable pair of keys you didn’t ask for, have no way of rejecting, and are unable to detach from one another, you’re likely in for a hefty replacement charge. Additionally, you’re in for a host of added hassle and the expenses that go along with it. All in all, it can easily ruin a vacation, cause serious delays to business trips, and can easily run up additional costs of $750 or more.

Why is this Happening?

This practice begs the question: If the rental car company doesn’t want the keys lost or damaged, why are they giving you both keys on the same ring?

Because they’re both bound together, you can’t give a key to one person while you hold onto the other. For the most part, the keys are impossible to break apart unless you snap the ring with wire cutters. Consequently, this choice will often result in an additional fine of up to $75. From the customer’s point of view, the practice makes little, if any sense. So why does it happen?

Here’s the Scoop

Like most things, the answer is pretty simple. While the vehicle you’re renting may be owned by the same corporation, these cars often travel from location to location, and frequently from state to state. As a result, they end up in a host of areas far from their origination point.

With this in mind, consider the following two explanations for this policy. First, if and when one key fails (and this can happen at any time), the customer has another on hand to avoid delays and potential disaster.

The second reason is a bit more complex and may surprise you. Due to their own internal disorganization and the difficulty of keeping track of spares, the rental car company does this because they’re afraid they will lose the keys if they aren’t kept together.

Before this practice was implemented, one key would go to the customer and the spare would remain at the office of origination. However, this practice often led to a problem when it came time to sell the car or when the customer’s key was damaged or misplaced.

Suddenly, the car company would have to figure out which offices had previously dealt with the vehicle. Consequently, that would lead to the nightmare of having to retrace steps and track the spare down.

Meanwhile, other companies were paying for dedicated storage facilities to house spare keys. After some time, the rental companies determined this practice was an unnecessary expense. Tired of the headaches, they decided to pass this burden along to the consumer to bear.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

According to Aaron Medina, a regional vice president at the Hertz corporation, they maintain vehicle fleets numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Understandably, that number constantly changes as the fleet is “refreshed” and cars are sold or retired. If the customer has the option of picking a car up in one place and dropping it in another, these companies wants their car to come with all its parts. It should be no surprise that this includes both keys.

With the implementation of this new practice, rental car companies no longer have to keep track of their property. As a result, they no longer have to go looking for a spare when they take a car out of service. Instead, they simply collect the pair of keys that have been fused together.

Meanwhile, the keys are no longer misplaced in the various regional offices, which was a costly problem in the past. Now, the keys are lost by you, the consumer. Consequently, the rental car company can charge said consumer when they lose the keys, rather than absorbing the cost themselves. All in all, it’s a win-win situation for the rental car companies and a costly inconvenience for their customers.

Additionally, some rental companies may also attempt to collect “loss of use” fees if a vehicle you rented is unable to be returned to the fleet for use as scheduled. These added costs can rack up while you’re attempting to find/replace the lost or damaged keys.

What Can I Do?

At Webb Law Group, we believe this terrible practice is unfair to the consumer and should be stopped. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the complexities of negligence law, particularly when you may be at least partially at fault.

If you disputed charges of this nature and you’re thinking about filing a lawsuit, or you’re currently defending against one, you owe it to yourself to speak with one of the seasoned Class Action attorneys at Webb Law Group.

We can provide legal advice and guide you through the process of beginning a Class Action suit. Together, we can deter future unfair and/or predatory practices of rental car companies.

Are You Seeking an Attorney in a Case of this Nature?

If you’ve previously dealt with a scenario of this nature or you’re in the midst of one now, Webb Law Group would like to hear from you. Our law firm has years of experience dealing with cases involving California liability law. We are happy to review your case and advise you on how we may be able to help and what steps to take next.

Webb Law Group is a reputable business and liability litigation firm with experience in matters involving California law. Please reference the CLRA for more information on this topic. Having a reputable attorney by your side for these matters will offer you the best possible chance of your case arriving at a positive outcome.

If you feel you need legal representation, we are happy to review your legal needs and provide consultation and support where necessary.

For questions, or to schedule a consultation, contact Webb Law Group today at 559-431-4888 (Fresno) or 619-399-7700 (San Diego).