This month’s e-Bulletin looks at car rental, a very popular and convenient way for travellers to get around on holidays but which can sometimes prove problematic. Unfortunately, the procedures and charges involved in hiring a car are not always clear so this month we offer advice on how to avoid common pitfalls and have a hassle-free car rental. In this issue we also warn you about the importance of checking the trader’s details and reputation before entering into a transaction
If you have had a problem with a purchase from another European country, please contact us on 01 8797620 or click here. For information on your consumer rights in Europe, please see our website at www.eccireland.ie.
Avoid being driven round the bend by car rental surcharges
In 2012, car rental complaints formed the third largest category of complaint received at ECC Ireland which required direct intervention by the centre. 50% of these cases involved complaints about supplementary charges imposed on consumers at the rental location or after the return of the car.
Some car rental companies may not include all costs in the price quoted and so the final price to be paid may be more than expected. In particular, fuel policies can often cause confusion for consumers. Generally consumers must ensure that the tank is full when returning the car, otherwise they will be charged to cover the cost of refuelling often at an inflated rate. However, some car rental companies operate a ‘collect full, return empty’ policy in which no refunds are given for unused fuel at the end of the rental period. As it is impossible to return the car with an empty tank, we recommend consumers watch out for this type of fuel policy and avoid it.
So-called insurance can also prove to be a minefield for consumers when renting a car. The various cover products on offer and numerous exclusions can be confusing and consumers often feel pressurised into purchasing these products at additional cost, so it is important to check exactly what is included and to pay very close attention to the final quote.
Charges for alleged damages to the rental vehicle are another big problem area for consumers. It is very important that consumer check the condition of the car on collection and carefully note all damages to the interior and exterior on the rental contract. When returning the car, ensure that it is inspected by an employee of the car rental company and insist that they sign your paperwork to verify that the vehicle is in good condition. Failure to do this can result in the car rental company incorrectly charging consumers for damage that was caused before or after the rental period.
Finally, make sure that you are fully aware of the local rules of the road and watch out for restricted parking areas or speed limits. If you incur any traffic fines, the car rental company will often charge a hefty administration fee for processing these on your behalf.
Consumer Query of the Month
I recently bought an item through an online market place. The listing indicated that the company is based in Portsmouth (UK). The item was delivered faulty and when I contacted the trader for assistance they asked me to look for someone to fix the item. I then indicated that I would be returning the item to them instead, but they gave me a Hong Kong address and asked me to arrange for a courier myself. I reluctantly followed their instructions but more than a month later no refund has been issued. What can I do?
Having checked on the internet, although the item appears to be located in the UK, the link to the trader’s details shows that they actually operate from China. The trader’s own website also confirms that. Since we only deal with cross-border consumer transactions within the EU/EEA, it may be difficult to assist you on this occasion if the trader is simply using the services of a mail handling company in the UK, although Portsmouth City Council’s Trading Standards Office may perhaps be in a position to offer further orientation or advice. Meanwhile, we would suggest that you make a chargeback request if you by credit or debit card or, if another payment intermediary was used, to check with them to see if it is possible to raise a dispute in this instance. You may also wish to report the matter to the market place concerned if you feel that the information contained in the listing was misleading or your statutory rights as a consumer breached. For future reference, please note that we always encourage consumers to check the trader’s details, particularly their geographic location, before engaging in a transaction
This month’s success story:
A French consumer hired a campervan for a two week period during a visit to Ireland. The consumer discovered that the vehicle provided did not match description on the trader’s website. Certain features were missing and the vehicle was in poor repair. The consumer complained and was offered an alternative vehicle but had to pay an additional €200. During his holiday the consumer encountered numerous problems with the vehicle’s battery. Although advised it would last for at least ten hours, it never lasted more than 5 hours at a time which led to food spoilage and additional costs for the consumer. The consumer complained when he returned the vehicle and was assured his complaint would be passed on to the owner but he did not received a satisfactory remedy. He contacted our sister office in France who requested the assistance of ECC Ireland. Following our intervention the trader agreed to refund the €200 upgrade fee and €50 as goodwill gesture.
Every week ECC Ireland receives complaints from people who have lost large sums of money after availing of free trials of products advertised online. The consumers thought they were only paying for postage and packaging but later discovered they had unwittingly signed up to an on-going subscription.
Exercise extreme caution when responding to any type of spam email or pop-up ads online, especially from unknown traders. Carefully check that you understand all of the terms and conditions when entering into a contract and be satisfied that you fully understand what you are agreeing to.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the European Consumer Centre cannot be held responsible for matters arising from any errors or omissions contained in this publication. The information provided is intended as a guide only and not as a legal interpretation.