LIHU‘E — The state Office of Consumer Protection is investigating a Lihu‘e rental car company after a review of one customer’s contract revealed “numerous violations” of state laws, raising suspicions that the business “was likely engaging in unfair or deceptive acts,” according to court documents.
A Fifth Circuit Court judge on Thursday ordered Hawai‘i Reasonable Rentals LLC and its sole manager, Lihu‘e resident Michael Gabour, to comply with a subpoena issued by the consumer protection office seeking financial statements, tax records and an exhaustive list of documents related to the company’s business activities.
The subpoena also specifically references several Hawai‘i statutes, including laws that restrict the amount of transportation department fees a rental car business is allowed to pass on to consumers and force companies to charge fair market gas prices for refueling.
Gabour called the OCP investigation “corruption on the highest level,” and said the alleged violations found by OCP investigators are, at most, the product of the limited resources and time he is able to expend researching complicated federal and state regulations.
According to Gabour and his attorney, Robert Kawamura, the OCP investigation stems entirely from the complaint of a single customer, who they say violated the rental agreement by driving the car down a rough dirt road, and then used the consumer protection office to avoid paying for damages to the vehicle.
“All of that over a $500 fine that I did not even get to keep,” he said. “Are they trying to get the small businesses out?”
According to Gabour, the OCP investigation and ensuing court proceedings forced him to spend time, money and resources he doesn’t have, and he fears it could ultimately cost him the business he has struggled to build over the last seven years.
“It is becoming impossible to run my business,” he said. “I’m going to have to shut down.”
The judge ordered Gabour to turn over Hawai‘i Reasonable Rental business records by Feb. 28, an outcome the OCP attorneys say he and Kawamura have managed to avoid for months by delaying and ignoring their emails.
An email chain included in court documents show communications between OCP lawyers and Kawamura beginning in mid-October, a month after the subpoena was issued, and ending in late December, when OCP attorneys sent a final memo stating the delays had left the office “with no other alternative but to seek court intervention.”
But Kawamura and Gabour said they have already met the subpoena’s demands to the extent of their ability, and the documents OCP investigators are demanding simply do not exist.
“We’ve complied. The subpoena is to produce what you have,” Kawamura said. “They’ve asked for records. We gave them records.”
Gabour is similarly perplexed about how to satisfy OCP investigators.
“I don’t understand what is required of me,” he said. “I’m not Microsoft. I’m a small business. What other records do you expect me to have?”
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.