Car rental companies urged to clean up their act

Car Rental Consumer watchdog, Which? is calling on the car rental industry to stop slapping on ‘steep, unexpected’ charges to customers.

It comes after an investigation into more than 40 car hire contracts from 18 providers found some had ‘unclear terms and conditions, surprise fees and penalties’.

Which? has submitted its findings to the Competitions and Markets Authority, saying the industry need to improve and act on these industry practices.

Rory Boland, Which? travel editor, said only 14% of customers surveyed read through their rental contract in detail.

“Few people have the time or inclination to read these lengthy, clunky contracts. Alarmingly, this could lead to consumers being slapped with steep, unexpected charges that can ruin a trip,” he said.

“The industry must act on these troubling findings and make its contracts as fair and as clear as possible.

We would urge consumers to stick to our recommended providers and check out our top tips online to avoid being stung.”

Which? said its investigation found:

Spanish company Goldcar has increased its deposit for a car in Malta from €1,200 in 2015 to €2,500, while in Spain, Del Paso demands a deposit of up to €5,000, the highest found

Several companies, including Avis, Budget, Europcar and Interrent, penalise customers for returning a vehicle more than 29 minutes late.

Outside of this timeframe, Avis and Budget impose a £12 fee in the UK, plus a whole extra day’s hire

At 31,000 words, Avis’ UK contract is longer than any Shakespeare text

Goldcar contracts state it can retain a customer’s deposit for up to 30 days after the vehicle’s return, despite Visa telling Which? of merchant obligations to return it within just five days

Interrent, Europcar’s low-cost brand, imposes a £50 charge in the UK if it has to pass your details onto a third party for a speeding offence, while Goldcar charges €40 in Spain

Solmar will charge €24 to customers who have forgotten to print out their confirmation

Several companies were found to charge excessive fees for a vehicle returned without a full tank. Goldcar, for example, demands €50 on top of the price of fuel, while Interrent charges €35. Solmar even imposes a €30 fine if you can’t produce a receipt from a petrol station 10km from the drop-off point.

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