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September 24, 2012

Avis: $30 Off Your Next Rental?

Filed under: Autos,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:19 am

Mouse Print* reader Marc D. recently got a mail offer promising $30 off his next Avis rental if he would give them his email address.

Avis $30 offer

What he didn’t realize until after he received his $30 coupon was the offer was really $30 off a weekly rental.


Avis coupon

Since Marc’s “next rental” was not going to be a weekly one, he felt hoodwinked.

Mouse Print* wrote to Avis, asking what happened, and whether they would honor the no-strings-attached $30 offer for those who received the original offer.

“As a result of a printing error, the promotional insert did not specify that the offer was for a “weekly” rental. However, “weekly” is mentioned in several other places, including the outer envelope (see attached), the website/page where the customer provides his/her information to redeem the offer ( and the subsequent email offer. The erroneous promotional inserts have been discarded. New inserts have been printed and are currently being used.” — Avis spokesperson.

Fair enough, the disclosure WAS on the webpage where consumers had to sign-up, but was not on the offer sheet they received by mail. Some consumer protection advertising rules, however, state that the subsequent disclosure of the actual terms of an offer does not diminish the deceptive nature of the original offer that did not disclose those terms.

And what will Avis do for consumers who felt mislead about this offer?

“The $30 offer is being accepted on weekly rentals.” — Avis spokesperson.

In other words, nothing.

• • •

January 2, 2012

CarMD Pricing… Nurse!

Filed under: Autos,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

A friend recently called MrConsumer wanting him to look at an infomercial airing for a product called CarMD. Apparently this device claims to be a consumer version of the computer that dealers plug into your car in order to read the diagnostic repair codes. He said it costs about $120.

Checking their website, rather than calling the 800 number, seemed to reveal much lower prices online:

He was astonished to hear how much cheaper the device was on the Internet. But a closer look revealed the truth:


What? Multiply the price you see by three? Who has ever seen a price next to an “add to cart” button that was not the actual price you pay?

• • •

October 31, 2011

Allstate’s Free Lifetime Membership in Roadside Assistance

Filed under: Autos — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:00 am

Wow, what a seemingly great offer from Allstate: call to get a quote on car insurance and you will get a free lifetime membership in their Roadside Assistance program. MrConsumer could stop spending over $50 a year for AAA membership!

Here is their TV commercial:

If you could not read the fine print disclaimer in the ad, a visit to Allstate’s website reveals the true nature of this auto club offer.


So what you really get for free on an ongoing basis is a phone number to call for a towing service.

Thanks, Allstate.

• • •

October 3, 2011

OnStar Amends Privacy Policy to Snoop (More) on You

Filed under: Autos,Electronics — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:49 am

We have all seen the OnStar commercials where a poor soul has had a traffic accident and a reassuring voice comes over the loudspeaker asking the driver if everything is okay or if they need help. That’s the kinder, gentler OnStar.

The more invasive OnStar is the one that is changing its privacy policy and terms and conditions statement, effective December 2011, to do a little extra snooping on its customers, and even on people who discontinue the OnStar service! [Current privacy policy, revised privacy policy.]


In addition to the other reasons they collect data such as diagnostic trouble codes, oil life remaining, tire pressure, fuel economy and odometer readings; information about crashes involving your vehicle, including the direction from which your vehicle was hit, which air bags have deployed, and safety belt usage about your vehicle, they have allowed themselves the ability to collect:

“the location and the approximate speed of your Vehicle based on the Global Positioning System (“GPS”) satellite network” “for any purpose, at any time, provided that following collection of such location and speed information identifiable to your Vehicle, it is shared only on an anonymized basis.”

Some critics suggest that GPS information is never anonymous, because GPS coordinates can pinpoint places such as your home address.


They also disclose for the first time that they keep tracking your car even if you cancel your OnStar service.

“Unless the Data Connection to your Vehicle is deactivated, data about your Vehicle will continue to be collected even if you do not have a Plan. It is important that you convey this to other drivers, occupants, or subsequent owners of your Vehicle. You may deactivate the Data Connection to your Vehicle at any time by contacting an OnStar Advisor.”

On September 27, after much public criticism and a call for an investigation by a New York congressman, OnStar decided to retract this part of their planned changes to their policy.

All the other changes will be implemented including that they now say they can share your data with their own affiliates for “marketing purposes,” and have removed the section about requiring your consent first:


OnStar certainly provides great lifesaving services, and while their privacy policy gives you the ability to opt-out, their data collection practices and plans to give or sell your data to law enforcement agencies and marketing companies may nonetheless be disturbing to some. One such person is Jonathan Zdziarski, who discovered these changes and writes persuasively about it.

• • •

September 5, 2011

Car Rental Taxes and Fees Explode

Filed under: Autos — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:47 am

Wow, can you imagine renting a car in Boston for only $57 a week during the peak of summer? That is the price that one price checking site found.

Unfortunately, the actual price you pay is nowhere near $57 because of all the taxes and fees that get added to the base rental price of the car.


All the taxes, fees, and surcharges add up to $66.74 — an amount that is more than the price of the car rental itself.

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