NSW Fair Trading commissioner Rose Webb said most of the March complaints about Atlas were about difficulties or delays in getting security deposits back after a vehicle had been returned.
“Consumers made complaints against Atlas Car and Truck Rentals in Mascot, Tweed Heads as well as Brisbane, Cairns North, Coolangatta, Northgate and Tullamarine,” Ms Webb said.
“However, it was the Mascot business that received most of the complaints with a total of 25.”
On its website, Atlas says it does not accept cash as a security deposit. For credit cars, the deposit is $350, but for debit cards the deposit held by Atlas is $1000.
The company says the security deposit is refunded “up to 10 business after the return of the vehicle if all outstanding amounts have been settled” and subject to the terms and conditions.
In comparison, other large car rental companies in Australia do not charge a security deposit for credit cards, and charge a $400 deposit for debit cards which take seven to 10 business days to be released.
Sydney-based Michele Melbourne said her Singaporean boss rented a car from Atlas and returned it on February 28, but it took weeks for him to get his deposit back.
She said he tried contacting them via email and Facebook Messenger, and then on April 5 her boss asked her to follow it up with the rental company’s Mascot office in Sydney’s inner-south.
“My partner and I went to the Mascot office and spoke to the service guy. He said he would pass it on. He didn’t,” Ms Melbourne said.
“I called the phone numbers but they are all [overseas] call centre message services. No one called back.”
Ms Melbourne said after then contacting the company via Facebook they responded on April 13, and told her the bond had been processed.
In an email, Mr Atkins said the company accepts a change in its bond process did not have the desired outcome.
“Unfortunately our banking partner was unable to increase the amount we can refund daily, this has caused delays beyond our policy,” he said.
“Atlas Car Rental apologies to all our customers who have experienced delays in receiving their bond refunds.”
He said Atlas was a 30-year-old family business that prided itself on its customer service, however Ms Melbourne said outsourcing their customer care “really lowers your trust” as a customer.
“If they were legitimate about the cause of the delay then they should have worked out a strategy to fix it and then advise, transparently, all customers,” she said.
“There are so many ways to reach out to customers these days, it’s pretty basic customer service.”
Mr Atkins said the company was also working with several consumer affairs agencies to resolve the bond refunds.
“We are working closely with our bank to get this situation resolved as quickly as possible, we are only about two weeks off having bonds fully refunded,” he said.
“Atlas … encourages any customer who is waiting to contact Atlas via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to have the refund expedited noting their Rental agreement number and full name of the driver.”
Rachel Clun is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.