Monday, 8 October 2012

Two companies offer toll billing services to rental car firms in US

The Chicago Tribune writes about a business called Platepass which provides toll collection services primarily to rental car firms, whose customers may not know how to interact with fully electronic free flow toll roads.  It has been around since 2006 and is used by Hertz and Advantage rental cars in the USA.   A competitor called Highway Toll Administration (since 2002) is used by Avis, Alamo and Enterprise. 

The system works by offering rental car customers an option to pay for tolls electronically.  It means that no rental car vehicles become violators, but instead Platepass chases up the debt, usually paid through the credit card used for the car hire.

It charges an administration fee of US$2.95 per day for rental car customers, effectively meaning it is only worthwhile if one is using several toll roads per day.  The maximum is $14.75 per month, meaning a two month hire could cost $29.50, without actually paying a cent for a toll road.

The idea is to be convenient.  However, it appears that some customers are being signed up for the Platepass without being aware of it, and some are paying cash at conventional toll booths and finding out they are being billed twice.  Certainly the fee structure makes it more expensive than paying direct, but few users of a rental car know how to contact the toll road company and make a payment by phone.  It takes considerable time to work that out.

However, it really ought to be transparent to those renting.  Either it is clear that all tolls will be through this system when renting, or those renting can opt to pay direct and face the considerable fines involved if they do not do so (that being the real saving of the administration fee).

It is good to see businesses emerge to deal with this obvious issue, and for them to hopefully extend across lease vehicles or even maybe have consumer products for when people borrow cars off others (perhaps with a smartphone app to activate an account).   Yet it is important that people know that it exists and what they face paying.

Meanwhile, this business is undoubtedly quite a lucrative one for those in it.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Scott. Glad to see this kind of service is being extended to rental customers in the US. Perhaps it should be made clearer to customers that Platepass is included as part of the package, to them avoid paying twice. The pricing structure should be transparent.

    Best wishes, Alex