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CONSUMER AFFAIRS / DENISE GELLENE

Who's Locked Out of a Rental Car

March 26, 1993|DENISE GELLENE

Rental car companies are taking people under age 25 out of the driver's seat.

Budget Rent A Car has raised its minimum age to 25 from 21 at most locations, citing higher insurance costs for that age group. Hertz, Avis and National Car Rental System already have minimum age restrictions of 25.

Dollar Rent A Car Systems and Thrifty Car Rental will rent to people between 21 and 25, but at a higher rate. Thrifty said the additional charge can range from $8 a day in Dallas to $20 a day in San Francisco. For some young people, the additional charge could be prohibitive.

Budget, Hertz, Avis and National said they will waive the minimum age restriction in corporate travel contracts. National said it is doing so with greater reluctance than in the past.

Gary S. Rubin, editor of Auto Rental News, a trade newsletter, said the rental car companies may be inviting legislation that would force them to rent to youthful drivers. Currently, New York is the only state mandating a minimum age of 21.

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These parents are dino-sore: A recent Public Broadcasting System fund-raiser that pitched tapes and toys featuring Barney, the dinosaur star of a popular children's show, is causing an uproar among some critics of children's television.

The Federal Communications Commission said it is reviewing two complaints from parents about fund-raising tactics during the Barney marathon, which aired on public television stations nationwide--including KCET in Los Angeles--on March 7. The fund-raiser may have run afoul of the agency's rules on children's advertising, which prohibit ads for toys on shows featuring the toy's character, the FCC said.

During breaks in the Barney marathon, PBS stations offered Barney videocassettes or stuffed Barney dolls for donations ranging from $40 to $90. The tactics disturb some advocates for children's programming, who like to think of public television as a haven from commercial pitches.

"Then something like this happens, and parents say, 'Oh no, not you, too,' " said Peggy Charren, an advocate for quality children's television.

This isn't the first time PBS stations have dangled toys during pledge breaks in children's programs. Last summer, we told you about a KCET fund-raiser that offered a stuffed Elmo doll as a bonus for a $60 donation. Elmo is a character on Sesame Street.

A KCET spokeswoman said the station received one complaint about the recent Barney marathon. Jonathan Abbott, a Public Broadcasting System spokesman in Washington, said complaints to other PBS stations were minimal. Nonetheless, he said, PBS plans to review the use of toys as part of an upcoming assessment of its fund-raising program.

Odds and ends: "Looking for Security?" ask signs at branches of Pasadena-based CenFed Bank, at a time when Bank of America is converting accounts of former Security Pacific customers as a result of a merger. A CenFed spokeswoman said the timing of the month-old slogan is coincidental. . . . Zillions, the children's magazine published by Consumers Union, reports that weekly allowances haven't budged since 1988. A $4 allowance that bought four comic books and two Snickers bars five years ago will fetch only four comic books today.

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