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Quote of the Day - You may be a redneck if . . . you have spent more on your pickup truck than on your education. - Jeff Foxworthy

U-Haul's Refueling Fee May Amount To Unfair Competition, But Two Charges Dismissed

Just after I graduated from college, I didn't own a pickup, and I couldn't afford to use a moving company like my parents did as we moved up and down the East coast.  Instead, I turned to U-Haul.  It worked out pretty well; the small truck was able to handle all of my worldly possessions:  my stereo system and speakers, my bricks and wooden shelves, telephone spool table and beanbag chairs.  Oh yes, my record collection in milk crates.

As you can probably guess, many others used U-Haul, too.  One other U-haul user was Leonard D. Aron.  Unfortunately, Mr. Aron was not satisfied with one aspect of U-Haul's contract:  the $20.00 refueling fee and $2.00 per gallon charge.  I don't remember whether I paid that fee the several times I used U-Haul some 25 years ago, but Mr. Aron did, and he did something about it.  He sued.

U-Haul discloses the fee in its contract and gives customers the option of avoiding the charge by refueling the truck before returning it.  Even so, Mr. Aron alleged that the fee was unconscionable because U-Haul used the fuel gauge to measure the amount of fuel, which he believed was an inaccurate method of measurement.  Under California law, it may be, but that's the province of the court, not this blog.

U-Haul argued against Mr. Aron's allegations, pointing to a statute that allowed rental car companies to charge refueling and gas fees for vehicles returned with less fuel than at the time of rental.  Unfortunately for U-Haul, it's not a rental car company  It rents trucks.  U-Haul did succeed, however, in dismissing several other of Mr. Aron's claims for unfair business practices and fraudulent business practices. 

This case is in its beginning stages, and those customers of U-Haul who rented trucks over the last four years may end up getting a coupon or some other token of the court's appreciation for paying the extra twenty dollar fee, but that's still up in the air. 

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, October 08, 2006


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