Posted on 26th March 2018 by Martina Nee

If you’re lucky enough to be going on holiday abroad this summer then you may also be considering booking a car rental? If so, be warned, many consumers encounter a hell of a lot of roadbumps before, during, and after renting a vehicle abroad.

Although booking car rental online certainly provides consumers with lots of convenience, choice, and value,  it is also one of the areas of consumer complaint that ECC Ireland hears a lot about. Consumers are often caught out by the terms and conditions, what is/is not included, the deposit, alleged damage, extra charges and all sorts of other problems. This is compounded by the fact that there is no industry specific legislation to protect consumers if they have problems with their car rental.

They say that ‘prevention is better than cure’. So, with that in mind we will be looking at ways you can protect yourself a bit better when you’re looking for your ideal car rental online, before you’ve hit the purchase button thereby locking yourself into a contract that may not be the best option.

You can download your free March eBulletin PDF here or, alternatively, read on to find out more.



booking car rental



Intermediary sites versus car rental provider sites – What’s the difference and how could this affect your booking?

Unless you’re a regular car renter with a ‘go-to’ favourite car rental provider, the usual first step for most people before booking car rental for their holidays is to do an internet search for ‘car rental’, ‘car hire’, ‘renting a car’ or various keywords like that and see what pops up on screen. You get loads of choice usually made up of price comparison sites and the actual websites of different car rental traders. The former acts as a sort of marketplace allowing consumers to see what vehicles and prices are being offered by a range of different car rental providers. For the sake of simplicity here, we are going to refer to these car comparision sites as intermediary sites.

If you are making the booking through one of these intermediary sites then it’s very important that you know who your contract is with and what terms and conditions apply. Essentially there’s three parties involved in this scenario: 1) you (the consumer), 2) the intermediary site, and 3) the car rental company that will be providing the vehicle when you arrive at your destination. If something goes wrong then different terms and conditions could apply, depending on what the issue is.

For example, if you’re disputing a charge for alleged damage or the witholding of your deposit then the complaint is with the car rental provider (party No. 3). However, if there was say a glitch with the intermediary website and as a result this caused a problem with the booking or it did not provide the total cost or left out other basic information then the complaint is with this trader (party No. 2). If you are booking directly through the website of the car rental provider, and not using an intermediary website, then of course the situation is much more straight forward – the contract is with you and this trader only.

car rentalTop tip: If you’re not sure what type of website you are using, who the trader is, and what type of contract it is, then it is vital that you read the terms and conditions. This often wordy text can usually be found by scrolling down towards the bottom of the site and it is often referred to as ‘General Business Terms’ or ‘Terms of service’. You could also look for ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ or ‘Requirements’.

Here’s an example of one intermediary site that gives information on where it is based, who the contract is with and also when the T&Cs of the car rental provider apply – of course, for legal reasons, we had to make it annonymous but hopefully it will give you an idea.

What does the rental include and are there any requirements?

Another issue that comes up a lot is consumers being caught out by the fuel policy. They may also have thought other things were included like a particular type of cover and free cancellation or they didn’t know what the deposit requirements were. It is vital that when you are selecting your vehicle that you double check what is/is not included, what are the terms and if there are extra charges that apply. Remember, if you’re using an intermediary site then check the various policies, coverage and inclusions on both this trader’s site and those of the car rental providers.

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General tips for booking car rental:

  • Take screenshots of the booking process just in case you need proof further down the line if things go wrong.
  • It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to read the terms and conditions. However, it can be very difficult to scan through all that text for the relevant information. You can search for a particular word like ‘deposit’ or ‘fuel policy’ by holding the Ctrl keyboard key and pressing F (for Mac it’s Command + F). This will make it a little bit easier.
  • If you’re unsure about any charges, particularly in relation to insurance charges and deposits, it is best to contact the company (intermediary site trader and/or the car rental provider trader) for clarification before booking the car.
  • Sometimes, not all the charges will need to be paid when you book – some may only be payable when you pick up the car. However, the total payable amount should be clear.
  • Always check the cost of extras that you may need during your rental such as a child’s car seat, additional driver, extra insurance, or a sat nav.
  • Make sure you know what is included in the final price and what is not. Pay close attention to the airport and other location related surcharges. For example, if you’re booking a one-way rental, the premium for this service won’t always be included in the quoted price so check what the additional cost is before booking.
  • Ask yourself if you need an international driver’s permit for the country you are renting a car in. Do you need to be over a certain age – it’s usually over 21 but some car rental companies may charge a surcharge for drivers under 25.
  • Before booking, it may be helpful to familarise yourself with the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS). The ECRCS helps customers with unresolved complaints concerning cross-border vehicle rentals within Europe and there are a number of car rental traders who subscribe to this scheme and are therefore bound by the decision reached by this conciliation service. This is important to take account of given that there is no industry specific legislation.
  • Of course, if you have a consumer dispute with a trader (intermediary or car rental provider) based in another EU/EEA country then you can also contact us here at ECC Ireland for free advice and assistance (if required).




Consumer success story of the month:

An Irish consumer rented a car for his holidays in Portugal via an intermediary marketplace website. When the consumer picked up the car from the car rental provider at the site he pointed out pre-existing damage to the alloy wheel which was then noted on the check-out sheet. The consumer returned the car after rental thinking there would be no further problems, however, he subsequently discovered that he had been charged for the damage to the alloy wheel and had also not been refunded for fuel. The total charges came to €772.28. The trader failed to correspond with the consumer any further on this matter and the consumer was not provided with an invoice for the repair costs for the rental vehicle. ECC Ireland got in touch with colleagues at ECC Portugal who contacted the trader on the consumer’s behalf. As a result, the consumer received a full refund from the trader.

Consumer query of the month:

Q: I was trying to book holiday online at the advertised price but when I went from one page to another during the booking process the price jumped up for no reason. I admit I may have overlooked this change at the time of booking and only noticed the change when I received the order confirmation. However, when I went to replicate the booking the following day, to see what it would do, the price jumped up again to the same higher price then initially advertised. I contacted the trader over the phone to ask about this discrepancy, but they just stated that it was due to a change in price by the airline. I feel that this doesn’t sufficiently explain why this error is still occurring on the website. What are my rights?

A:  The Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU states that the total price must be given before the contract is concluded. In addition, under the Air Services Regulation the published price shall include the fare and all applicable taxes, charges, surcharges, and fees which are unavoidable and foreseeable at the time of publication. So, if you book a flight online, the final price must be available from the initial page enabling you to compare prices across airlines and make an informed choice. However, if you book a flight on a third-party website and the airline increases its prices, usually prices are not changed while the booking is being made, but rather the booking cannot be completed, or the consumer later receives a notification that the price has changed before the booking could be confirmed with the airline. Changes in pricing can sometimes also occur due to extra credit card changes or a booking fee that’s not disclosed until the final payment page.

In this case, despite the change in pricing, the trader did provide the full price (considering the change) prior to the order being confirmed. Therefore, it would be difficult to request the difference in the price. However, it is advisable to check the relevant terms in case the booking can still be cancelled without penalty.



If you want more information about this or any other cross-border consumer issue, please contact us on 01 8797 620 or go to You can also follow us on Twitter.

Martina Nee

Press and Communications Manager

The European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting customers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is funded by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

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.

© 2018 – European Consumer Centre (Ireland), CLG incorporated in Ireland, No. 367035, Registered Charity No. 20048617 – CHY14708. Located at MACRO Centre, 1 Green Street, Dublin 7.

This ebulletin was funded by the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020).

The content of this ebulletin represents the views of the author only and it is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture, and Food Executive Agency (CHAFEA) or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.


Competition and consumer protection commission