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Budget Rent-A-Car System, Inc.; Analysis of Proposed Consent Order to Aid Public Comment

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Federal Trade Commission.

ACTION:

Proposed Consent Agreement.

SUMMARY:

The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the draft complaint and the terms of the consent order—embodied in the consent agreement—that would settle these allegations.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before December 20, 2007.

ADDRESSES:

Interested parties are invited to submit written comments. Comments should refer to “Budget Rent-A-Car System, File No. 062 3042,” to facilitate the organization of comments. A comment filed in paper form should include this reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission/Office of the Secretary, Room 135-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Comments containing confidential material must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled “Confidential,” and must comply with Commission Rule 4.9(c). 16 CFR 4.9(c) (2005).1 The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions. Comments that do not contain any nonpublic information may instead be filed in electronic form as part of or as an attachment to email messages directed to the following email box: consentagreement@ftc.gov.

The FTC Act and other laws the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. All timely and responsive public comments, whether filed in paper or electronic form, will be considered by the Commission, and will be available to the public on the FTC website, to the extent practicable, at www.ftc.gov. As a matter of discretion, the FTC makes every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments it receives before placing those comments on the FTC website. More information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, may be found in the FTC's privacy policy, at http://www.ftc.gov/​ftc/​privacy.htm.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Lisa Rosenthal or Sarah Schroeder, FTC Western Region, San Francisco, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, (415) 848-5100.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and § 2.34 of the Commission Rules of Practice, 16 CFR 2.34, notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for November 20, 2007), on the World Wide Web, at http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​2007/​11/​index.htm. A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room 130-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-2222.

Public comments are invited, and may be filed with the Commission in either paper or electronic form. All comments should be filed as prescribed in the ADDRESSES section above, and must be received on or before the date specified in the DATES section.

Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order to Aid Public Comment

The Federal Trade Commission has accepted an agreement to a proposed consent order with Budget Rent-A-Car System, Inc. (“Budget”), one of the nation’s largest rental car agencies.

The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for reception of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement or make final the agreement’s proposed order.

This matter concerns deceptive practices by Budget with respect to an automatic, flat “EZ Fuel” fee it charges to renters who drive fewer than 75 miles, regardless of whether they return their rental with a full gas tank, unless they present a receipt. Budget has failed to adequately disclose the EZ Fuel fee or how renters can have the fee reversed.

The complaint alleges that Budget engaged in deceptive practices relating to its EZ-Fuel program. The complaint alleges that Budget has falsely represented that, if consumers return their rental vehicle with a full gas tank, they will not have to pay any fuel-related charge, fee, or cost. In numerous instances, however, consumers who drive their vehicle fewer than 75 miles Start Printed Page 67727will have to pay the EZ Fuel fee, regardless of whether they return the vehicle with a full gas tank, unless they present a gas receipt.

The complaint further alleges that Budget failed to disclose and failed to disclose adequately that consumers who drive their rental vehicle fewer than 75 miles and refuel can have the EZ Fuel fee reversed only if they present a fuel receipt. In addition, Budget failed to disclose that consumers without corporate accounts would have to present their fuel receipt inside at the rental counter after returning their rental vehicle and checking out on the return lot. These facts would be material to consumers in their rental transaction. The failure to disclose these facts, in light of the representations made, was a deceptive practice.

The proposed order contains provisions designed to prevent Budget from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future. Part I prohibits Budget from misrepresenting (A) that renters who return their vehicle with a full tank of gas will not incur any fuel-related charges; (B) any fuel-related charge, fee, cost, or requirement; or, (C) any charge, fee, or cost, or term or condition, relating to the rental of any vehicle.” Part II of the proposed order requires that Budget disclose, clearly and conspicuously, at the time of rental transaction: (A) any fuel related charges, fee, or costs; (B) any material requirements related to the fuel-related charge; and (C) the manner, if any, in which the renter can avoid such fuel-related charges. Finally, Part III of the proposed order prohibits Budget from making any representation about the benefits, costs, or parameters of any fuel-related option unless it discloses clearly and conspicuously, and in close proximity to the representation, any material terms or conditions relating to that fuel option. These conduct provisions prohibit the deceptive practices alleged in the complaint, but do not prohibit Budget from imposing fuel-related charges, so long as such charges are disclosed as required by the proposed order.

Parts IV through VII of the proposed order are reporting and compliance provisions. Part IV requires Budget to retain documents relating to its compliance with the order. Part V requires dissemination of the order now and in the future to persons with responsibilities relating to the subject matter of the order. Part VI ensures notification to the FTC of changes in corporate status. Part VII mandates that Budget submit compliance reports to the FTC. Part VIII is a provision “sunsetting” the order after twenty (20) years, with certain exceptions.

The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order, and it is not intended to modify the terms of the proposed order in any way.

By direction of the Commission.

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Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

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Footnotes

1. The comment must be accompanied by an explicit request for confidential treatment, including the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. The request will be granted or denied by the Commission’s General Counsel, consistent with applicable law and the public interest. See Commission Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).

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[FR Doc. E7-23293 Filed 11-29-07: 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 6750-01-S