United States District Court Approves California Airport Rental Car Class Action Settlement

On November 5, 2012 the United States District Court for the Southern District of California gave final approval to a class action settlement of a consumer antitrust class action reached with Hertz, Dollar Thrifty, Avis Budget, Vanguard, Enterprise and Fox.  Under the settlement, persons who rented a car directly from a corporate owned California airport location of Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Fox, Hertz, National or Thrifty from January 1, 2007 through November 14, 2007 and who were charged and paid an Airport Concession Fee and/or Tourism Commission Assessment as a separate line item on their invoice may be entitled to compensation.

According to the judge in the case, Hon. Michael M. Anello, “…the quality of representation in this matter was exceptional.  Class counsel fought hard for the class, employing nearly every possible litigation tool and succeeding on appeal before the Ninth Circuit.  As just a few examples of the quality of counsel’s work, the motion for preliminary approval, motion for final approval, and the instant motion for fees and costs were impeccable, thorough, detailed and stand as models for others to follow.”

The class representative was Gary Gramkow. The co-lead counsel law firms that represent the Class are Hulett Harper Stewart LLP and Sullivan Hill Lewin Rez & Engel, a professional law corporation, both of San Diego, California.    Co-counsel Center for Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego School of Law initiated the lawsuit after unsuccessfully opposing last-minute changes to 2006 legislation that permitted Rental Car companies to unbundle Airport Concession fees from their rates and charge a fee to recoup the Tourism Commission Assessment which they pay to provide funding to the   California Travel and Tourism Commission which plaintiff contended facilitated consumer price fixing.  The case also alleged violations of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act by the CTTC.

Under the now-approved settlement, eligible renters may claim their choice of either $2.00 per day (with a minimum payment of $5.00) or a voucher or vouchers redeemable for one or two free days, time and mileage.  Eligible claimants who rented for a total of less than eight days are entitled to a voucher for one free day and those who rented for eight or more days are entitled to a voucher for two free time and mileage days.  Approximately 3,400,000 transactions qualify.  However, rentals from non-corporate owned airport locations, rentals made as part of a pre-existing agreement with a business or governmental body according to which the rental charge was determined, and rentals where a package price was paid to a tour operator or online booking agency (like Priceline or Hotwire) are not included and are not entitled to benefits.

Court approved Email and Post card Notice was previously sent to those individuals shown in the databases of the Rental Car Companies as qualifying for benefits.  Separate notices were sent for qualifying transactions with each of the defendants because consumers are entitled to separate compensation from each defendant with whom they had an eligible rental.  Notices include a unique identifying number which may be used for accessing information about class members’ benefits entitlement (from each Rental Car Company) and allow them to designate their choice of benefits electronically on the claims website.  Persons who believe they may be eligible for benefits should visit the claims website (ACFTCAsettlement.com) for additional information about the case and the Settlement and, if eligible, to designate their choice of cash or voucher benefits.

If you believe you had an eligible California airport rental during the period January 1, 2007 through November 14, 2007 and did not receive a Notice or have misplaced your unique claim code, you may contact the Court appointed settlement Administrator toll free at 1-888-758-5690 to request an Election of Benefits Form, to obtain your claim code or for more information.