Car hire firm ordered to make pricing clearer
Car hire firm Rentalcars has been misleading customers by failing to include the cost of non-optional fees in its headline prices, says the advertising watchdog.
A customer complained to the Advertising Standards Authority after seeing an online advert for a Citroen C3 for five days which included a headline price of £93.86. Further text stated there was an additional €84.13 (about £73.28) car hire company fee, but the complainant said this wasn’t made sufficiently clear.
Rentalcars said its ad included explanatory text which indicated that the car hire company fee was a one-way fee that the company charged. The additional text appeared when the customer hovered over the fee, without them needing to click away from the page.
Rentalcars said the headline price on the search result page showed all compulsory charges, including the car hire company fee (as well as its currency converted amount), although, because that was a ‘pay later’ item, it appeared as a secondary line.
It said consumers were able to understand the total price by adding the headline price and the car hire company fee together on the search results page, and that the estimated total price was displayed to the consumer as the final drive away price on the payment page, which included all mandatory fees and which identified the items a consumer was required to pay for immediately and those they were required to pay for later.
However, the ASA said the most prominent price in the ad was £93.86, which was displayed in bold and in a larger font that any other price, so consumers would be likely to understand that was the total cost of the booking.
Upholding the complaint, the ASA said: “The CAP Code rules on misleading advertising and pricing required that, to avoid misleading consumers, quoted prices must include non-optional taxes and fees that applied to all or most buyers. The only exception was when those fees and taxes could not be calculated in advance.
“When a consumer entered their itinerary into the search on the home page, they were required to tick a box which stated “Drop car off at different location” if their itinerary required them to hand the car back to the car hire company in a different place to where they had picked it up. Therefore, for those consumers who arrived on the page in question, it was a requirement to pay the car hire company fee and we considered, consequently, that in that context the fee was non-optional.
“It was clear that Rentalcars were able to calculate the car hire company fee in advance, because it was displayed separately in euros and converted to an estimate in pounds sterling beneath the headline price in a smaller font. We acknowledged that the fee was approximate because it was a price in euros that needed to be converted into pounds sterling. Nevertheless, we considered that a total price should have been given, and that an explanation breaking down the relevant fees could also have been given.”
Rentalcars was told to make sure that its future advertising made clear the total price, which included all charges consumers were required to pay immediately or later as part of the same booking, as soon as prices were quoted.