Man says he was falsely accused of smoking in Turo car rental, sent to collections

ATLANTA — There is a new way to rent a car, but some customers are finding it comes with some of the same old problems.

Turo is an app that allows you to rent cars from individual owners, but Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray spoke to a metro Atlanta man who ran into trouble when he was falsely accused of damaging the vehicle.

Josh Demspey found the rental car on Turo, a service that basically works like an Airbnb for cars. The cars you rent are someone else’s personal vehicle.

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The Canton resident gave the car a five-star review on the app after his Nevada vacation.

“It was about a week later, I got an email from Turo and they were advising me that I had been kicked off the service for smoking,” Dempsey said.

The Turo host claimed Dempsey left marijuana paraphernalia in the Jeep.

He was not only kicked off Turo, but also sent to a collections agency for a nearly $300 smoking charge.

“I’m still so upset by the fact that they even made these allegations and essentially handed down a judgement without ever hearing a defense,” he said.

Channel 2 has reported before about Lyft and Uber customers facing false damage charges.

Lyft tried to charge Paul Bollender $150 for vomit in a car on a Nashville vacation.

“The complete and utter and lack of transparency throughout the entire process was probably the most frustrating part,” Bollender said.

For Dempsey, the Turo dispute was more about his reputation than the money that he felt he had to fight for.

“Do I want to pay $300? I’m a teacher. No, every bit matters to me, but am I going to let you attack my character?” he said.

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Channel 2 consumer advisor Clark Howard gave the same advice as with a traditional care rental company: push back, even if it means you have to go to arbitration or small-claims court.

“Administratively, they are the judge, the jury, the prosecutor, and nobody is standing up for you. You have to stand up for yourself,” he said.

Turo said customers can protect themselves by documenting the condition of the car when they return it.

Turo said in a statement:

“We have a no-smoking policy to keep the personal property of our hosts protected. We also have a detailed trip photos guide for guests, so they may prevent any claims. In this instance, the host provided photo evidence of a smoking violation, and the guest had not provided post-trip photos.”

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Turo has now refunded Dempsey and allowed him back on the app.

A spokesperson told Gray to think of it like renting a U-Haul: take pictures and document so you can prove the condition of the car when you returned it.

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