Hiring a car in the EU? Find out how to create driving dreams and avoid driving disasters!

Hiring a car when you are abroad gives you great freedom to go where you want when you want. It can also save you from having to drag heavy luggage on crowded public transport. But hiring a car in another country can be difficult. Issues with car hire, especially about damage charges, insurance coverage, and fuel policies, are one of the most common reasons that consumers contact European Consumer Centers every year. This article has our top tips before you rent a car and what to do if it doesn’t go smoothly for you.

  1. Book early! Particularly if you are travelling during peak tourist seasons or to popular holiday resorts, consider booking your car hire at the same time as you book your holiday. Car rental rates at airports are often higher due to their convenience and high demand. Pre-paying in advance is often cheaper. If you do, make sure that the booking has a cancellation policy, this way you can check the prices closer to the holiday and cancel if there are better offers available.
  2. Do your homework online before you book. It is just as important to book from a reputable broker or hire business as it is to get a good price. Take your time to look up reviews as well as compare prices. The price should include all charges in the total booking price at the time of booking, including additional costs such as specific fuel service charges, airport fees etc. Any optional extras should be listed too.
  3. Read the terms and conditions. They should clearly describe the key rental services in your national language and most importantly they should provide you with essential information about the rental’s main features, such as what mileage is included, the fuel policy, cancellation policy, and deposit requirements. Before signing a car-hire contract, make sure you know exactly what the mandatory insurance contract covers. Along with detailing the fuel policy the contract should also detail what is and is not covered, as well as the excess that may be charged in the event of a damage or other claim.
  4. Inspect the car before you drive away. Both you and the car rental business should inspect the car before you drive away. Test the brakes, air conditioning, lights, and windshield wipers to ensure they function properly. Take photographs of any damage, however minor, before you leave the premises and make sure the damage is recorded by the rental business before you leave. If you drop your car off out-of-hours take photos of its condition, as you may be held responsible for any damage that occurs.
  5. Return the car within the terms of the policy. This means returning the car on time and as per the fuel policy that you signed up to. Do a final thorough check and collect evidence that you are returning the rental car damage free. Make sure that a representative of the car rental business signs an acceptance form or indemnification statement. This proves that the car has been returned in the same condition as you received it. It’s important to keep the paperwork no matter whether there is damage to the car or not.

Unfortunately, you can follow all these tips and abide by all the policies and still run into difficulties. If you do run into problems, the first step to take is to make a complaint to the rental business. Our letter templates can help you with this. You can also find out more about your rights in our car rental information. If you have made a complaint to the business and are unhappy with the outcome, or you get no response then you can escalate your complaint to us using our complaint form.

Are you planning to travel to Euro 2024? Read our top tips for the best experience

Euro 2024 kicks off in a matter of weeks. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, if you’re planning to enjoy the action live in Germany this summer, read our top tips to ensure a smooth and memorable journey.

1. Make sure all your plans are in place

During Euro 2024, demand for trains, flights, hotels, and other services is expected to be high. Research the match schedules, cities hosting the games, and nearby attractions and make sure you have made all your bookings before you travel.

2. Last minute match tickets

Whilst most tickets were sold months ago, there are last-minute sales opening this month. UEFA provides an official resale platform which is the only authorised channel for fans to buy tickets from others. At the start of May tickets listed on the resale platform will be available to buy at cost price, along with any other remaining tickets. Do not be tempted to use any other platform to buy tickets as you may be refused entry.

3. Travelling by rail

If you are planning to travel by train in Germany, you have several options to choose from. ICEs are the fastest trains, but also the most expensive. Regional trains (RB, RE, IRE) are cheaper, but your journey will be longer. To make up for any delays and avoid a stressful platform change, choose a connection of at least 45 minutes.  If you plan on using local and regional public transportation, consider the “Deutschland-Ticket” offered by Deutsche Bahn (DB). It allows you to travel throughout the month for €49. Be aware this is a monthly subscription that must be cancelled.

4. Driving in Germany

Berlin, Cologne, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt on the Main, Gelsenkirchen, Leipzig, Stuttgart and Munich, all have environmental zones called Umweltzone. To drive in the cities your car must have a “Umweltplakette 4”. This green sticker is compulsory for all German and foreign vehicles. Read more about driving in Germany and how to order your environmental badge on ECC Germany’s website.

5. Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance

Travel insurance can give you extra peace of mind if something goes wrong on your trip. Particularly if you have booked the different elements of your trip yourself, travel insurance can help you if you must cancel or cut short your visit, you miss transport or are delayed for reasons beyond your control, or if you have a medical emergency. We recommend taking out the insurance as early as possible.

Who can help if I have a problem?

Most fans will have the time of their lives. But what should you do if your accommodation isn’t up to scratch, or your flight is delayed, or you have issues with a car rental? Depending on what your issue is check our site for information about what you are entitled to. Keep all receipts/photos and document everything. When you get back home make a complaint to the business involved and if you need more help contact us through our ‘ask a question’ or ‘make a complaint’ forms. We are here to help!

 

ECC Ireland’s service opens

We are happy to announce that our new ECC Ireland service is now open. This means that if you have a question about your EU consumer rights you can use our ‘ask a question’ service. You can also ‘make a complaint’ to our dedicated case handling team.

How can our service help you?

If you have an issue with a business located in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, or the UK, we can help you resolve this problem. Here are the steps you can take:

  • Step one: find out about your rights. We now have a dedicated ‘ask a question’ service. Simply tell us about your issue, provide us with your details and a trained case handler will respond by email with specific information and advice, based on your circumstances. You can also read the consumer information pages of our website where we set out your EU rights for shopping and travelling.
  • Step two: make a complaint to the business. Armed with the information you have about your rights; you can complain in writing to the business. Set out what happened, any interactions you had with the business and how you want the problem resolved. Our letter templates can help you do this. This step must be taken before you can escalate your complaint to us.
  • Step three: escalate your complaint to ECC Ireland. If you are unhappy with the response from the business or you don’t hear back from them, you can make a complaint to us. We can then mediate between you and the business. The purpose of this mediation is to find a solution that is reasonable and acceptable to both parties.

 

 

World Consumer Rights Day 2024

On March 15th we celebrate World Consumer Rights Day, which is dedicated to raising global awareness about consumer rights and needs. Did you know that the European Union is responsible for three-quarters of consumer rights? Here is a snapshot of some of its many achievements on behalf of consumers.

One charger for all your portable devices

From December 2024, the USB Type-C port will become the standard equipment for all mobile phones and tablets in the European Union. This means you can recharge all your electronic devices with a single charger, regardless of the brand. No need to bring a variety of chargers when you go on holiday!

Better protection in the digital world

The European Union is working to criminalise online activities that are already unlawful offline. Two major European regulations, the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act, have recently come into effect. Now, all online platforms must verify the identity of the sellers they host.  This ensures that you know who you are dealing with when making online purchases through an intermediary.

Since March 6th, six major digital businesses (Google, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft) must reduce the restrictions they put on their users. For example, they can no longer impose their software by default when you buy a new device. And you should be able to uninstall pre-installed applications with just one click.

Easily repairing your defective products

For over 20 years, European Union laws have protected consumers when they bought goods.

These laws mean that if a product does not function correctly, you have the right to request a free repair or replacement from the seller up to two years after you bought it. Since 2022, these protections has been expanded to include connected devices, digital content, and services. Whether it’s a video game or a subscription to an application, their proper functioning is guaranteed for at least two years.

What if the device breaks down after two years? The European Union is working to compel businesses to produce durable products and encourage consumers to repair or have their defective devices repaired. This has led to the creation of new eco-design standards that manufacturers must follow and a right to repair for consumers on certain devices such as refrigerators, washing machines, or phones. A free online platform will be established in each EU country to find an authorised or independent repairer.

Expansion of the Consumer Credit Scheme

More and more online sellers are offering instalment payment solutions known as “Buy Now, Pay Later”. This payment option is very attractive for consumers who can buy immediately and pay in three or four instalments, usually without fees. However, it increases their risk of borrowing beyond their means. To safeguard consumer interests, Europe Union laws have been extended to include these type of credit arrangements. This means credit below €200 and those falling under the “Buy now, pay later” category are now subject to more stringent regulations. These measures will take effect from November 2026.

Instant money transfer within the Eurozone

Other new rules will change the way we pay, especially when it comes to transferring money. Currently, it takes one business day to complete a transfer within the Eurozone. Starting from autumn 2025, this period will reduce to 10 seconds, facilitating near-instantaneous transactions between the sender and the recipient. This transfer will incur no additional fees.

Important ECC Ireland update

The European Consumer Centre (ECC) in Ireland is undergoing a change – and it isn’t just our website! The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has applied to the European Commission to be the new provider for the ECC Ireland service. The CCPC is in the process of setting up a new ECC Ireland service.

How we can help today

If you are having difficulties with a cross-border business, our new website will help you assert your rights. We provide information across a wide range of topics from buying online and service contracts to flights, package holidays and car rental. We have also developed a range of easy-to-use letter templates, which will help you assert those rights and tell the business how you want your problem to be fixed.

If your problem is still not resolved, our Take Action section sets out your next options depending on your circumstances.

Our new service

As the CCPC is setting up a new service, there will be a transition period while we put in place all the expertise we need to continue the important work of the ECC Network.

When our new service is in place, you will be able to make a complaint to our case-handling team through our website. Keep an eye on this website for updates on when the new service will open.

Existing complaints

The previous provider of this service closed on the 31 December 2023. Unfortunately, we are unable to progress the complaints that were made to the previous provider. If you have already made a complaint, you will receive an update via the email address you used when making the complaint.

There are steps, however, that you can take to progress your complaint:

  • Firstly, if you haven’t, you will need to make a formal complaint in writing to the business with which you are having a problem. You will need to have completed this step before you will be able to avail of any other formal remedies.
  • If you have already made a complaint to the business and are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, read our Take Action’ section on this site as it sets out your next options depending on your circumstances.
  • Finally, you will be able to submit your complaint when our new service is open. We expect to have a team of dedicated complaint handlers in place in the coming months. We will announce on our website when the new service is open.

Who else can help me with a complaint?

  • If your complaint is about a trader registered in Ireland, you will need to contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. You can do so through their website or by calling their consumer helpline on 01 402 5555. The CCPC’s website also provides extensive information about your consumer rights.
  • If your complaint is about a cancelled flight, you were denied boarding or had a long flight delay that originated in Ireland, you can contact the Irish Aviation Authority.
  • Your financial institution – depending on the timeframe, you may be able to dispute the transaction with your bank, using their chargeback process. Read more about chargebacks and when they apply.

Flight cancelled due to severe weather? Here’s what you are entitled to.

With two storms, Isha and Jocelyn, sweeping over the country in recent days, almost 200 flights were cancelled at Dublin airport. It was much the same at other Irish airports and across Northern Europe too, with dozens of flights cancelled due to heavy rain and gale-force winds.

Whatever the reason behind the cancellation of your flight, you are always entitled to choose between an alternative flight or a full refund on your ticket. However, you are unlikely to be able to claim compensation.

What happens if your flight gets cancelled?

Under Regulation (EC) 261/2004, airlines must offer you a refund or a re-routing on the next available flight, or at a later time of your choosing.

If you select a refund the airline should process the refund within seven days of the cancellation of your flight. The refund must include the cost of your ticket and a return flight to the airport of departure if you have a connecting flight.

If you ask for the next available flight, the airline must provide care and assistance as long as you are waiting. If you are re-routed to a different airport in the same city, the airline must pay for your transport to the original airport.

What is ‘care and assistance’?

If you are waiting for the next available flight, the airline has to ensure you have meals and refreshments. You are also entitled to overnight accommodation if you are to be re-routed the day after your planned flight, the airline must cover the cost of transport to and from the hotel to the airport.

How do I make a claim to the airline?

Send copies of all receipts to the airline, including the booking references, passenger details and the original and new flight information.
You can use our Flight cancellation template letter to help you make a claim.

Am I entitled to compensation?

In short no you are not. Airlines are not required to compensate passengers for cancellations or disruption in circumstances beyond their control; severe adverse weather conditions are outside their control.

My flight was cancelled and I booked it through a travel agent or booking website what are my options?

You should be offered the same options of

  • a full ticket refund or
  • re-routing to your final destination

If you choose a refund, you will have two options:

  • ask the airline to refund your ticket
  • ask the intermediary party to refund your ticket

Airlines are responsible for refunding your ticket, even if you have booked using an intermediary service. Airlines are required to reimburse you within 7 days of the cancellation of your flight. There is no such time limit for intermediary parties. It is therefore often fastest to ask for your money back with the airline.

Seeing sense in the January sales

The January sales season is upon us. With everyone’s pockets stretched it is more important than ever that we get the most out of our money.  use cash reserves wisely. Follow our smart spending guide to this year’s January sales:

Avoid the impulse purchase

“Ten other people are looking at this product right now” or “only three left!”: many businesses use have clever messages to influence your behaviour.  It’s important to try and keep some perspective on what we really need versus what we want. Even if something appears to be a bargain, the first question to ask is whether you actually need it or is it just because it is on offer. This will help you resist buying on impulse. Compare the price and quality of the product in other stores or online. This is particularly important for higher-value products.

Stay wise

It’s vital that you are not swayed into a purchase by a sales pitch – especially if you are promised huge discounts. Be on guard that the product may actually be poor value or poor quality. At a time when sustainability is a major concern, investing in higher-quality and durable products that will last for longer is often the smarter choice.

Don’t be duped!

As the saying goes, if something is too good to be true, it usually is. Particularly if what you are buying is expensive, it is very important that you do your homework before you buy. Search online for the business’s web address and reviews. Keep an eye out for independent review websites. Is there an address and phone number on the site? There should be. Do they provide terms and conditions? If so, make sure to read them.

Check if the deal is right

Under new rules, if a business is advertising a sale price, they must also show the prior price. The prior price is the lowest price the product was on sale for in the 30 days before the sale. This means a business can’t hike up their prices a few days before a sale and claim a big discount. Make sure to check the prior price: does it look like the normal price you would pay?
The way to be really sure that you’re getting a good deal is to track the price of your chosen product to see if the end price represents a genuine, net reduction after tax and shipping. Finally, always look at the final price rather than the saving discount, and make sure that price comparison claims between competitors are based on like-for-like products or versions.

Be in the know

You might have noticed that sales on services have become much more popular. Watch out for deals on subscriptions and packages, particularly when advertised through free trials and low-cost introductory offers that you get by signing up to a long-term subscription. You will see these mostly online and on social media, for example: wellness programmes (low introductory club memberships), cosmetics and healthcare (free samples and low-cost trials), dating services (open-end subscriptions), and digital services (cloud-based and streaming subscriptions).

For online subscriptions you are required to provide your card details. In providing those details you are agreeing to your card being automatically charged at regular intervals. Cancelling these types of charges are difficult as your bank or financial institution cannot stop them unless you freeze or cancel your card. This means if you only intend in using a subscription for a certain time frame make sure to set a reminder to go in and cancel it before this time is up. If you need help cancelling a subscription visit our Subscription Cancellation help page.

Finally, be mindful when shopping on social media, particularly when live shopping. Online shopping is becoming a generic term nowadays. From websites to platforms, and then mobile apps and social media, what started as “e-commerce” evolved into “mobile commerce”, then “social commerce” and now “live shopping” (buying directly from and during a live stream on various channels). Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp or TikTok, in-app and live shopping is how younger consumers, in particular, like to shop these days. Remember, you only have consumer rights if you buy from a registered business and those rights are strongest if you buy within the EU.

Booking a foreign holiday in 2024: Dos and Don’ts

Whatever your travel plans are for 2024, make them in confidence knowing that you have the right information to make the best choice for you. From choosing the type of holiday, to car hire and what to do if something goes wrong, our top tips will make sure that you are ready for takeoff.

Package holiday or DIY: Which is best?

There is no right or wrong answer to this one; the key is knowing the difference and making an informed decision. Booking your own holiday can often be cheaper and allow more flexibility, as the world really is your oyster. However, the important thing to know is that you don’t have the same level of protection as you do if you book a package holiday. Where this is important is, for example, if something happens at the destination you are flying to or if the accommodation you booked isn’t what you expected. If you book a package holiday, the provider is responsible for either addressing the problem or organising a different arrangement. If you book your holiday yourself, make sure to spend time reading the terms and conditions of each part of your holiday, particularly around cancellations.

Expired passports and the 10-year rule

EU rules state that passports are valid for a maximum of 10 years. That means if you’re visiting another EU country, Iceland or Norway and your passport is valid for more than 10 years, you could be denied entry. It’s up to you to check this, not the airline.

If you are travelling within the EU your passport will also need to be valid for three months after your return date. Many countries including Egypt, Thailand and Turkey require up to six months. Save yourself a stressful sprint to the passport office by checking what the requirements are for your destination before you make the booking.

The cheapest time to book online

Travel businesses were among the first to embrace algorithms – the computer technology that predicts everything from demand to pricing. “Dynamic pricing” is the way in which some businesses describe algorithms that raise prices at high demand times. Often flight or hotel costs can change significantly even in the space of an hour. As a general rule, look online during quieter spells – for example, mid-afternoon or late in the evening – for the best deals. The more people are online and searching, the pricier the flight or hotel might get.

Whether you are booking in person or online, shop around and be wary of “pressure selling” – those warnings on websites that claim there is “one room left at this price” or that “42 people have looked at this deal in the last hour”.

Navigate car hire like a boss

Car hire can be a tricky business. From the cost to deposits and rules around use, you need to go into car hire with your eyes open. Before you leave, compare the rates of different car rental firms; remember, too, that it can make a big difference to book a car online. Before booking a rental car, research the company and always read the policy and rental conditions to ensure you select the best choice for you.

In the EU, there are rules that protect you when you rent a car in one of the member states, including Norway and Iceland. You are entitled to clear information and a fair contract. You can also involve a dispute committee if you have a dispute with the car rental company.

To find out more about what you should watch for when you hire a car abroad see our Car Rental advice page.

Be on your guard for scams

Accommodation scams are unfortunately a reality that we all need to be aware of. If you are booking your accommodation yourself, make sure to do your research. There are lots of review websites that you can check. Whilst a five star-rated hotel might seem like a brilliant find, it is more important to check the number of reviews, the details in those reviews (are they specific?) and be realistic there is always going to be the odd negative review.  If you can, try to use booking websites and pay through those sites as you will have a better level of security. Email the owner too, before you commit, to confirm the accommodation is genuinely available and what will happen if there is a cancellation – either you or them.

What happens if things go wrong?

This depends on what type of holiday you have booked. If you have booked the individual elements yourself, then depending on the nature of the problem you will need to look at the terms and conditions of each contract. If your issue is in connection to travel, we have advice in our Travelling in the EU section.

If you booked a package holiday, the business that booked your holiday is responsible for addressing the problem. Read about your rights on our Package Travel consumer advice page and get in contact with the business as quickly as possible.

Finally, don’t forget to pack your travel insurance. For most people, travel insurance is a must, as it will cover you for many situations such as if you fall ill before you fly, or if you have valuables stolen when you are away. Remember don’t leave it to the last minute to buy your insurance, put it in place as soon as you book or consider taking out an annual policy.

All you need to know to “Roam Like At Home”

When you travel outside your home country to another EU country, you don’t have to pay any additional charges to use your mobile phone. This is known as ‘roaming’ or ‘roam like at home’. Your calls (to mobile and fixed phones), text messages (SMS) and data use (web browsing, music and video streaming etc.) are charged at the same price as calls, texts and data within your home country.

The same rule also applies to any calls or text messages you receive while you’re abroad – you are not charged extra to receive calls or texts while roaming, even if the person calling you is using a different service provider.

What is roaming?

Roaming is when you use your mobile phone while occasionally travelling outside the country where you live or have stable links, i.e. you work or study there. So, as long as you spend more time at home than abroad, or you use your mobile phone more at home than abroad, you are considered to be roaming. You will therefore be charged domestic prices for your calls, text and data use in the EU. This is considered a “fair use of roaming services”.

Whenever you cross a border within the EU, you should get a text message from your mobile operator informing you that you are roaming, and reminding you of its fair use policy.

In which countries can I ‘roam like at home’?

In all 27 countries of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and in the countries of the European Economic Area: Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

What does a fair use policy mean?

In order for roaming customers to have access to the “roam like at home” rules Mobile operators can apply a “fair use policy”. This means that your mobile operator may apply fair and proportionate limits to avoid customers abusing the rules.

When you’re roaming, there are no volume restrictions on your voice calls and text messages (SMS). However, there are rules and limits on how much data you can have charged at your domestic price. These limits depend on the type of contract you have.

In some cases you may have to pay a data roaming surcharge, which will be equal to the EU-wide wholesale data cap. This maximum amount is €2 per GB of data in 2022 plus VAT and it will decrease over time. From 2027 onwards it will be capped at €1 per GB plus VAT.

What if I have a pre-paid service?

If you pay in advance for using your mobile phone, you can use your phone in other EU countries without paying extra. However, if you pay per unit and your domestic unit price for data is less than €2 per GB your mobile operator may apply a data limit while you’re roaming.

If your mobile operator applies a data volume limit, it should be at least the volume obtained by dividing the remaining credit (as soon you start using data roaming services) by €2. You will get the same volume of roaming data that you’ve paid for in advance. You can of course top up your credit while you’re travelling.

Example: If you have €12 (excluding VAT) credit when you start roaming then you can will get at least 6 GB of roaming data (€12 divided by €2 = 6).

If things go wrong

If you think your service provider has not respected your rights, you should contact your operator and use their complaint procedure.

If you are not satisfied with their response you can contact the relevant national regulatory authorities in your country, usually your national telecoms regulator, who will handle your case. In Ireland, this is the Commission for Communications Regulation.

Get the most out of unwanted Christmas presents

As consumers, each year we lose millions of euros on unwanted Christmas presents and unused gift vouchers. Rather than leaving them to collect dust in the corner or adding to landfill by dumping them, you could put them to good use. You may even get a gift you love in the process!

Can you return an unused gift?

Hopefully, you were given a gift receipt that will explain your options. If you don’t have a receipt, then try to find out where the gift was bought and when. If the gift was bought online, the business is required to provide one. If the gift was bought in a store, whether you can return it and get a refund or exchange will be based on the shop’s policy. In good news, many businesses allow returns and have extended return periods into January, so the first step is to make contact to find out what the business will do. If you know that the gift was bought online, the person who gave it to you may be able to return it if it’s been 14 days or less since the gift was delivered to them. You can find out more about these rights in our Right to Cancel section. However, it might be an awkward conversation to find out!

Spend vouchers straightaway

Gift vouchers can be a good way to give a personal gift that still allows an element of choice, but they can also be easily lost or forgotten about. Your consumer rights mean that gift vouchers must be valid for at least five years, but it’s a good idea to use them as soon as possible.  If the business from which the voucher was bought closes down, it will be difficult or impossible to get a refund. Remember also, that some in some cases, maintenance fees can run down the amount you have to spend so get spending.

If it’s faulty, bring it back

Did you know that you have consumer rights for up to six years after you buy something? Under consumer law you are entitled to:

  • The right to a refund within the first 30 days if a product is faulty.
  • Decide if you want a repair or replacement. It should be provided by the business within a reasonable time, without significant inconvenience to you and free of charge.
  • Ask for a refund or price reduction if the fault is major. You can also do this if you have difficulty getting a repair or replacement.
  • Depending on how long the product should reasonably last, the business can also be responsible for resolving issues for faulty products for up to six years. 

Sell or donate it

If none of the options above suit, you could give the present to someone you think will appreciate it. Alternatively, you could sell it on an online platform, donate it to a local charity or give it to someone for free by listing it on freecycle websites.