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Advice needed: Cost of dent in Hertz rental car disputed

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On our recent trip to France, we ended up with a small dent in the rear of our vehicle (a Peugot 1007 economy car). The dent was noticeable but not significant, had almost no effect on the paint, did not affect the operation of the hatch at all. At most, it should have cost a couple hundred bucks to fix.

We received an invoice earlier this week from the Hertz office in France for 1123E (about $1450 or so). Furthermore, they insist on payment to be recieved no later than July 11...less than one week after we received the notice...or else we will incur a substantial penalty. I would have to cut a check and mail it today to make that happen.

Instead, I called Hertz corporate customer service this morning and asked them to intercede on my behalf.

Does anyone have relevant experience and/or advice to share on this matter? I am flabbergasted that a respectable company like Hertz would engage in this sort of shakedown.

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