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A Payless car rental franchise that allegedly failed to let customers know it tracked them when they crossed state lines and then imposed surcharges on Tuesday settled a consumer protection lawsuit filed by California authorities. The San Francisco Bay area company Acceleron Corp. agreed to reimburse hundreds of customers who were hit with the additional fees — some as much as $3,000 — beginning in January 2003, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said. The use of electronic monitoring devices like global positioning satellites in rental cars has become a contentious issue in recent years. In 2002, Connecticut stopped Acme Rent-a-Car from tracking its customers and fining them $150 for speeding. A law in New York prevents rental-car companies from using such systems to fine renters for speeding or driving outside the state. A similar law in California, which takes effect in January, allows companies to use such devices only to find lost or stolen vehicles and help drivers navigate. Mark Mittelman, an attorney for the company, said Payless was within its legal rights when it installed the tracking devices last year. The company also maintains that its rental agreement did alert renters of the tracking device and its geographic restrictions. “It was not used for any intrusive reasons,” Mittelman said. “They did not — I emphasize, did not — monitor where the renters were going within the state. They just wanted to, again, make sure that vehicles did not disappear, because vehicles do disappear, literally.” The suit alleged that Acceleron failed to properly notify renters that their cars were equipped with GPS. The suit also alleged that the company did a poor job of letting customers know about its geographic restrictions. That means that even customers who unknowingly violated those rules by traveling outside the state or to certain parts of Nevada returned to a bill that included a surcharge of $1 a mile for the entire rental period. The company will pay an additional $250,000 in civil penalties and other costs. It’s not clear how many people will seek reimbursement, officials said. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed.

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