The complainant wanted the bank to reverse an amount of R38 700.00 from his account.
This amount was debited by a car rental company. The bank engaged with the car rental company and was informed that the amount was in respect of a towing charge. The rental company had to tow the vehicle due to the complainant allegedly abandoning the vehicle. The rental company relied on its terms and conditions to justify its actions in this regard.
The bank relied on the response received from the rental company to state that it was unable to reverse the charge. The bank submitted that the complainant concluded a contract with the merchant in this instance and was bound by terms and conditions. Further, that it was impossible for the car rental company to have determined the towing fee/accident repairs at the time the rental agreement was signed.
The MasterCard Rules were considered by our office and in terms of 3.12 which deals with charges for Loss, Theft or Damages, irrespective of what the contract states, the merchant must ensure that an estimated cost of the damage must be communicated to the customer and his specific authority to debit his account with that specific amount must be obtained. In our view, the mischief behind this rule would be to ensure that a customer is given an opportunity to dispute the amount if he wishes and the opportunity to follow the car rental company’s internal dispute process before his account is debited.
If we had to accept that the car rental company would be allowed to debit the account without communicating the estimated cost of damages/repairs and without obtaining his specific consent, then this would mean that Avis would be allowed carte blanche to debit a customer’s account with whatever sum they deem fit for damages/repairs – surely this cannot be. We also must be mindful that should a customer not give consent or not reach agreement in terms of the quantum for the damages or disputes and any damage all together, the rental company is not without recourse and will be at liberty to pursue the matter via our courts.
In this instance, we maintained that when the chargeback was raised with the bank, the bank was supposed to request the rental company to provide proof of compliance with clause 3.12 of the rules.
After much debate, the bank accepted our position and reversed the debit.
Principle: Banks must ensure that they are aware of, and comply with, the MasterCard Rules when a dispute is received from a customer in respect of a merchant; this will result in the correct resolution of the dispute.