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Massachusetts sues U-Haul for faulty reservations, trucks

May 9, 1997

BOSTON (AP) _ Massachusetts’ attorney general sued U-Haul International Inc. on Thursday, saying the company misled customers about its guaranteed truck reservation policy and rented defective vehicles.

Attorney General Scott Harshbarger also accused the moving and storage company of selling off property held in storage lockers without providing legal notice to its customers.

One U-Haul employee admitted that the company regularly failed to honor reservations, Harshbarger said. His office said it received 18 complaints about U-Haul from around the state last year.

According to Harshbarger, U-Haul advertised and collected security deposits ranging from $40 to $120 to guarantee reservations, but customers would often find that a truck wasn’t available.

Gary Larivee, president of U-Haul Co. of Massachusetts, said in a statement the company was notified by the attorney general in January of some problems, but they were immediately corrected.

Janet Cooper, a spokeswoman for U-Haul’s headquarters in Phoenix, said the problems were related to routine customer service issues, but she declined to elaborate.

Jeffrey Clements, Massachusetts’ assistant attorney general, said U-Haul claims to have suspended its guaranteed reservation policy, but investigators with his office found that reservation operators still imply guarantees.

Cooper would not describe the company’s reservation policy. But a manager who answered the phone at an outlet in Brookline said he would guarantee a van provided the reservation was made at least a week in advance and the company showed it had enough trucks in stock for the specific day.

The suit also charged the company with renting defective equipment to customers, including vehicles nicknamed ``trash can″ trucks that were unsafe to drive.

One customer said his truck had to be jump-started by U-Haul employees before he could rent it. Another said he rented a truck with dangerously bald tires, one of which blew out on a highway.

Customers also were charged excessive fees for late storage rental bills, the suit said. In one case, the company gave a customer just three days’ notice to make payments before it sold off all his property, Clements said.

Under state statutes, the attorney general can sue a company to recover out-of-pocket losses suffered by consumers. The AG is also seeking civil penalties of up to $5,000 per alleged violation, the amount of which haven’t been determined.

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