Students get cheap rental quote, Avis charges thousands of dollars more

HILLSBOROUGH, Calif. (KGO) -- Two Bay Area college students, already steeped in debt, rented a car for their last three months of school in Boston. They nailed down a great deal from Costco for about $1,300 for the whole term-- but that isn't what Avis billed them.

"It was about three times more than we expected,'' said Christopher Tong of Hillsborough. "It was terrible, it was a shock to both of us."

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Tong and his girlfriend Wendy were heading to Boston for a residency program to finish their doctoral degrees in optometry. Tong had a Costco membership so he went online and got a quote from Costco Travel. It confirmed a reservation for an economy class car from Avis for three months in Boston. The total: $1309 including an extra driver.

However, Tong says when he went to pick up the car in Boston, the agent seemed confused, typed in a series of numbers, and printed out a contract with a lot of fine print. The bottom line price was $1580.

"I thought OK, it must be because we added liability insurance, so it didn't seem too weird at the time,'' Tong said.

It wasn't until they finished their program and turned in the car that they discovered a huge mistake.

"Instead of $1,300 for the whole three months, they charged me for each month - thousands of dollars more,'' Tong said.

Avis wanted $1,580 for the first month and $2,200 for two more months.

Tong objected to the charges right away saying that wasn't the deal he was quoted by Costco.

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"They just kept saying, 'there's nothing we can do about it, you signed the contract, you are responsible.' ''

Tong admits he didn't read all the fine print, but neither student could afford the extra $2,200

"We're students, we're already in a kind of debt,'' Tong said.

He filed a dispute with his credit card company, but Avis would not refund his money.

"They said this case is closed, you can't even escalate it anymore,'' Tong said.

He contacted 7 on your side -- we reached out to Avis. The company did not respond to repeated requests for a statement about this case. However, it did reverse the extra charges on Christopher's credit card after all.

"We were so happy especially my girlfriend,'' Tong said.

Christopher did complete his doctoral program-which may help him next time when he says, he'll be sure to focus on the fine print.

"Thank you for helping us,'' Tong said. "We're really thankful to ABC 7 On Your Side.''

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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