A few gallons of gas is turning out to be very expensive for U-Haul, which has been hauled into court over its refueling charges.
The case involves Leonard Aron. When he returned his rental U-Haul truck, he refilled the fuel tank beyond the level it had when he first drove off the lot. U-Haul charged him a $20 "fueling fee" plus another $2 a gallon for gas needed to top off the tank, pointing to his rental contract that spelled out the charges.
That didn't set well with Aron, who brought a class action lawsuit against U-Haul Company of California and U-Haul International, Inc., contending that U-Haul's refueling charges and practices violate the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act and the California Unfair Competition Law.
Aron is far from alone. Other consumers have complained to ConsumerAffairs.com about U-Haul's refueling charges, including some who were charged much more than Aron.
"I used the truck for 20 miles ... On the way to returning the truck I have filled up $9.37 worth of gas, which equates to more than 3 gallons of gas," Cuneyt of Seattle wrote. "When I returned the truck (the manager) claimed that I have not filled up the gas and charged me an extra $50 -- $20 for gas (4 gallons at $5), and $30 service fee."
"I had the truck for 5 hours and put 147 miles on it and my contract said that it was a $0$ fee with 2.00 a gallon to fill back up to a half a tank. They charged me $40 fee and 4.00 a gallon," said Christopher of Kansas City, Kansas.
California's Second District Court of Appeal has ruled that Aron's suit should proceed to trial, rebuffing U-Haul's efforts to dismiss the action.
Aron's suit charges that U-Haul's use of the fuel gauges on its trucks to measure fuel is illegal because California law requires measurements to be made in a manner that ensures their accuracy and reliability.
The complaint also says U-Haul's scheduled fees and practices force customers to buy excess fuel to avoid fueling fees, even though U-Haul incurs no refueling costs.
"We find that Aron has alleged facts sufficient to show that U-Haul's representations would be misleading to a reasonable consumer because there is no connection between the imposition of a fee or cost and whether the customer has in fact refueled the vehicle," the appeals court says.
U-Haul's "EZ Fuel Agreement" says, in part: "Customer is responsible for returning the truck with the same fuel level as dispatched or pay fuel charges and a service fee as agreed to on the rental contract."