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Nacta's role in car rental suit upsets lawyer

Nacta's role in car rental suit upsets lawyer
By Michael Milligan
Originally Posted on www.travelweekly.com

WASHINGTON -- The attorney representing travel agents in a proposed class-action suit against major car rental firms is miffed that a travel agent trade group filed an affidavit on behalf of Hertz, one of the supplier defendants.

The National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents (Nacta), an ASTA affiliate representing outside travel agents, filed the affidavit with the Superior Court of California in San Diego confirming the long-standing practice by Hertz and other firms of calculating agent commissions on base rates that exclude fees added later. The affidavit was filed by Nacta president Joannie Ogg.

The lawsuit contends agents should receive commissions based on the total sale price, including all fees and taxes.
Paul Ruden, ASTA staff senior vice president of legal and industry affairs, said the affidavit was simply to provide basic information to the court.

"Nacta supplied an affidavit of fact," Ruden said. Nacta was "asked [by Hertz] to provide information dealing with what goes on in the marketplace and agreed to do so."

Despite the fact the affidavit was filed on behalf of Hertz, Ruden said, "we are not involved in this lawsuit," adding Nacta and ASTA "have not taken a position in this lawsuit."

But travel attorney Alexander Anolik, who represents the travel agents in the suit, disagreed.
"We are definitely shocked to see [Nacta] has taken an anti-travel agent position on what we think is a simple issue," Anolik said. "The issue of the case is what is the definition of revenue. For [Nacta] to go against this is annoying."

That spurred Anolik to file an affidavit of his own.

In it, he said Ogg failed to make clear to the court that at one time she and her husband were affiliated with the Outside Sales Support Network (OSSN), a trade group representing outside retailers that is one of the co-plaintiffs in the case. The relationship, Anolik said, was terminated in 1986 and the Oggs formed Nacta, which was later purchased by ASTA in 2000.

Anolik went on to charge that Hertz and other car rental companies are dues-paying members of ASTA. He suggested that Hertz provides direct or indirect support to Nacta, which "has a vested interest in supporting Hertz's position."

Requests for comments from Ogg, were referred to Hertz's attorney and then in turn to a Hertz spokesman who said, "We've maintained all along that they way we pay commissions is based on a long-standing custom and practice in this industry. So it should come as no surprise that highly reputable agents in this business are willing to attest to that fact."
The suit against Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz and Thrifty alleges agents lose revenue on car rentals because of the practice of calculating commissions on base rates that exclude other fees and taxes.

The plaintiff, Wide World Tours of Mission, petitioned the court to certify the suit as class action. A ruling is expected in May.
To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to mmilligan@ntmllc.com.