Consumer watchdogs across Europe are putting the brakes on car hire firms charging rip-off hidden costs.
The watchdogs believe the firms are hitting consumers with unfair and unexpected costs after car hire complaints rose by 30% last year.
According to the European Consumer Centre, more than 500 complaints were received from Brits abroad related to:
- Post-hire damage charges, mainly after unsupervised drop-offs
- Insurance disputes often concerning unrequested, overpriced or excess waiver charges
- Fuel policies – demanding the cost of a full tank regardless of how much used
Most of the complaints were about car hire firms in Spain, Italy, Iceland and Malta.
But new action by trading standards teams in the UK and Europe aims to make the firms tell consumers up-front about the charges they might have to pay.
The measure is the latest in a series of warnings to the industry that has seen enforcement action against some firms and big changes in the way web sites deliver information to consumers.
“There has been a significant improvement in the accuracy and clarity of information on car rental price comparison websites and, today, standards are much higher across much of the sector. For example, most comparison websites now clearly flag young driver surcharges and one-way fees in the prices they quote,” says the Competition and Mergers Authority in the UK.
“However, a small number of businesses have been identified which may have still not made adequate improvements.”
The CMA is writing to 40 car hire companies warning them to set fair and transparent fuel policy charges and to clearly explain how much insurance excesses and hire fees are calculated.
The CMA’s James MacBeth said: For many people hiring a car is an essential component to days out, holidays and trips. No one should be misled or face unexpected charges, whether they choose to book directly with the car hire company or through a comparison site.
“While we have seen improvements in the way car hire comparison sites quote prices, we are still concerned that some companies may not have faced up to their legal obligations, and as a result we have opened two enforcement cases.
“We expect this sector to provide clearer information about the true costs, and to explain upfront what customers will actually pay. Businesses must read our advice and make the necessary changes. If companies break the law they risk enforcement action.”