Avis sued over discount rates offered to gay and lesbian customers


By Matt Reynolds
Courthouse News Service

SAN DIEGO (CN) – In a federal class action, a woman claims Avis Rent-A-Car violated her civil rights by offering discounted rates to gay and lesbian customers, but not to her.

Lynn Evenchik of Pima County, Arizona, says she paid more than $300 for a 1-week car rental from an Avis outlet at San Diego International Airport.

Evenchik says she could have got a discount if she belonged to the Gay and Lesbian Travel Association or the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

She is not, though, so she seeks an injunction and damages under California‘s Unruh Civil Rights Act.

Evenchik filed a class action “on behalf of consumers who have suffered from this illegal and unfair business practice.”

“Avis is one of the world’s leading automobile rental brands, and maintains numerous locations throughout the State of California, including at least 12 in San Diego County,” the complaint states.

“In September 2010, Avis entered into a three-year partnership with the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (‘IGLTA’) pursuant to which it provides discounted rental rates to gay and lesbian car renters. Avis’ Worldwide Discount (‘AWD’) Code Q200430 provides such renters with discounts of up to 25 percent off of Avis’ regular rates.

“Similarly, Avis offers discounted rates to members of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (‘NGLCC’). These discount programs are intended to generate additional business for Avis, in return for which Avis pays a commission to the referring organizations. This practice violates California’s Unruh Civil Right Act (the ‘Unruh Act’), which prohibits businesses from offering discounts to customers based upon, inter alia, their sexual orientation.

“These unfair and unlawful business practices result in many consumers who are not affiliated with those organizations paying substantially higher rental rates than those made available to gay and lesbian renters who use the above AWD Codes,” according to the complaint.

Evenchik says members of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce get discounts of up to 20 percent. She says Avis gives the two organizations a 3 percent commission on rentals booked through their websites.

“Although Avis offers many discounted rates and AWD [Avis Worldwide Discount] codes, the IGLTA/NGLCC discounts are among the best that Avis makes generally available and is frequently a better rate than small businesses and other affinity groups obtain,” the complaint states.

Evenchik says: “On July 7, 2011, plaintiff rented a vehicle from Avis at its San Diego International Airport location for a period of one week. She was charged a total of $311.36 for the rental. Plaintiff alleges on information and belief that she could have obtained a better rental rate by using the IGLTA or NGLCC AWD codes. Plaintiff is not a member of or associated with either of those organizations and was not aware of those discount codes at the time of her rental.”

Evenchik is represented by Eric Benink with Krause, Kalfayan, Benink & Slavens, of San Diego.

Benink did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

Avis declined to comment.

A copy if the complaint is here (PDF).

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