Taken for a Ride: South Florida limo company charges customers extra for asking questions about bill

(WSVN) - Limousines can be a fun part of any celebration, but riding in style took a turn for the worse for two South Florida families. Now, they are planning to fight back against a business. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.

Eric Garcia-Tunon, customer: “I was angry at myself for allowing myself to walk into a situation like this.”

Eric Garcia-Tunon wanted to rent a limo for his son’s 13th birthday. He searched online and found South Miami Limos.

Eric Garcia-Tunon: “He quoted me $250 per hour, plus gratuity and service charge.”

He paid what he thought was the total bill before the one-hour trip, but after the ride, the limo company charged his credit card an additional $700.

Eric Garcia-Tunon: “He didn’t tell me that I was paying for the driver’s transit time.”

The limo company charged him for another hour and 50 minutes, saying that’s how much time it took for the driver to get to and from Eric’s house.

When Eric emailed the company to complain about the unexpected charge and ask for a refund, he says he couldn’t believe the response.

Eric Garcia-Tunon: “He just charged my credit card $550 extra simply because I asked the question.”

Dan del Mazo also hired South Miami Limos and was also hit with an unexpected charge: $165 for a 17-minute late drop-off.

He says the driver did not get him to his destination on time, so he disputed the charge with his credit card company.

Dan del Mazo, customer: “I had heard that other customers were being charged a significant amount of money just for challenging a charge or requesting an explanation of what they were charged for. I took precautions. I canceled my card, and I locked it.”

He was glad he did because the limo company tried to bill him $585, but the charge was declined by his bank.

Dan and Eric both say they did not read their rental contracts, which contained all the disputed terms. They say they felt pressured to sign them quickly.

Dan del Mazo: “It’s tiny. It’s blurry.”

The print might be small, but it says if the purchaser disputes or inquires about a charge the “purchaser authorizes a charge of $585.00 per transaction to be charged to their credit or debit card to cover administration costs applied to or expensed by the company to research.”

Sandy Boisrond, attorney: “Those types of things I would describe, and I’ve seen it in the court, as “unconscionable” terms or things that are not according to public policy.”

Attorney Sandy Boisrond says paying such a large fee to dispute a charge is pretty ridiculous and could be fought in court.

Sandy Boisrond: “There are ways often times around those types of situations, and even though they did sign off on it, certain terms can be amended.”

Even 7News got a demand for money from the limo company. 7News wanted to speak to Matt Barnes, the man who Dan and Eric say handled their limo rentals, but in an email to 7News, Barnes said he would only speak with us if we paid a $75,000 appearance fee.

We discovered that Matt Barnes runs at least three limo rental businesses in South Florida, but the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation says none of them are properly registered to operate.

One was even cited last year as “an illegal operator, and a violation was issued, which remains unpaid.”

Dan del Mazo: “We thought we were going to have a good time. We thought it was gonna be pretty smooth, and it’s far from it.”

Dan and Eric are now working on filing formal complaints to Miami-Dade’s Department of Transportation.


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