Quick tips on car rental

Renting a vehicle is a convenient way of getting around during a trip and enables travellers to plan their holiday a little more freely, without having to work around public transport timetables. However, it can also be a confusing area for consumers. What is included in the initial quote may not always be clear, and there may be additional charges for extras such as child seats or insurance. Car rental is a frequent area of complaint in ECC Ireland’s case handling. The majority of such complaints relate to supplementary charges imposed by the car rental company. ECC Ireland is therefore encouraging consumers to be vigilant when seeking to hire a car this summer. There is no specific EU legislation in place that covers this area, but consumers can avail of more general protections set out in directives on unfair commercial practices and unfair terms in consumer contracts. Consumers are advised to:
  • Carefully check the rental quote for what’s included and what isn’t. There may be extra costs for things such as child seats or an additional driver.
  • It is also a good idea to fully familiarise yourself with the insurance policy and consider taking out additional cover where necessary. Most policies do not cover damage to certain parts of the car, e.g. tyres, windscreen, etc.
  • Make a note of the fuel policy, which may be ‘return tank full’ or ‘return tank empty’. For obvious reasons, the vehicle can’t be returned with a completely empty tank, but the trader may not provide a refund for unused fuel. These policies are best avoided.
  • Ensure you have read and understand the cancellation policy.
  • Familiarise yourself with the rules of the road in the destination country and check if there are any age restrictions.
  • The vehicle should be inspected by a representative of the car rental company when it is picked up by the consumer. The rep should make a note of the condition of the vehicle and any pre-existing marks or damage, and supply a copy of this form to the consumer. If there is no rep available at the time of collection, the consumer should inspect the vehicle themselves and take photos.
  • When the vehicle is returned, it should be inspected again for any damage, and a copy of the form supplied to the consumer. If no rep is available or if the vehicle is returned outside of working hours, consumers should take photos as evidence that it was returned in good condition. Failure to do this could result in supplementary charges for alleged damage to the vehicle, which may prove very difficult for a consumer to challenge.

Case Studies

Charge for damage to a hired car for which consumer was not responsible
A consumer rented a car in France and just before leaving the car hire compound at the end of the rental period, an employee from another car hire company crashed into the consumer’s hire car while it was parked. The consumer was not in the car at the time of the crash. The car was checked by all parties but days later the consumer discovered that he had been charged €310 for the damage. After almost a year exchanging correspondence, the issue remained unresolved and the consumer requested assistance from the ECC. Following the intervention of the Irish and French ECCs, the trader refunded €309.77 to the consumer.
Charge for alleged missing item from rental car
A consumer rented a car in Portugal from a Spanish rental company. The rental car was returned prior to 6am and could not be inspected by rental staff. The consumer left the keys in a special box as instructed. Later that day he received an email stating that €100 would be debited from his credit card for an alleged missing compressor. The consumer inspected the check-list and inspection report provided at the start of the rental and noted that this item wasn’t listed in the car in question. Despite this the trader refused to refund him and he contacted ECC Ireland for further assistance. ECC Ireland referred the complaint onto ECC Spain and the trader eventually apologised for the error and refunded the €100 to the consumer card.
Charge for damage to rental vehicles tyre caused by consumer
A German consumer rented a car from Dublin airport. Upon return of this vehicle it was noted that damage had been caused during the rental period to the tyre. As this is not an item included under the insurance policy the consumer was charged for its replacement. When the consumer received an estimate of repairs and he was surprised that a total of €213, 59 EUR was to be charged for a replacement. He wrote to the rental company arguing that this price charged was exceptionally high even by Irish standards. The rental company responded stating that this was the price charged for the replacement of the tyre and replacement of the sidewall which had also been damaged by the consumer. The consumer contacted ECC Germany and the complaint was shared with ECC Ireland. Following ECC Ireland’s intervention, although the rental company argued that the price was justified, as gesture of goodwill they agreed to refund €50 which the consumer accepted.
Charge for damage to a hired car for which consumer was not responsible
Consumer rented a car in Italy for a skiing holiday. The car was fully fuelled at the time of collection, and the consumer request information on the type of fuel to be used should he need to refuel. He was advised as the car was travelling to a mountain resort it required winter diesel. The consumer drove to his ski resort and left the car parked for the duration of his stay. When it was time to return to the airport the car would not start, and as the consumer had just 4 hours until his flight was due he had a local garage carry out a repair paid them €170 directly. The garage issued the consumer with a report stating that the car had developed a fault due to incorrect fuel. The Consumer complained to the trader once the vehicle was returned but they later refused to refund the consumer claiming he had not followed their policy in the event of breakdown. The consumer contacted ECC Netherlands and the filed was shared with ECC Ireland as the traders head office in based in Ireland. Following the intervention of ECC Ireland the consumer received a full refund.