Car Hire companies must clearly state their terms and conditions, and, in accordance with Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, should ensure there are no hidden costs.
Hidden costs include:
- insurance that is either unrequested, overpriced or has an excessive waiver policy;
- an extra fee for younger or older drivers;
- fuel policy penalties, for example, not returning the car with a full fuel tank;
- mileage limits and one way fees; and
- additional fees for taking a car over a land border, for example, taking a car from Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland.
Before you drive away make sure there is a record of any damage on the car and take your own digital photos of the car just in case there is a dispute when you return it.
When you do return, it is a good idea to ensure an employee checks the car for new damage with you, and get a signed receipt saying there was nothing extra to pay.
Check your bank statement to check you have not been charged for any unexpected charges. If there is a deduction you were not made aware of, ask for an explanation from the car hire company. If you are not happy with the explanation, tell the company the money has been taken 'under protest' and inform your credit or debit card company about the dispute.
If you paid by credit card you could make a claim against the card provider under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. If you paid by debit card you can ask your card company to use the chargeback system to reverse the payment and give you your money back.
Some car hire companies have strict rules about collection times, and will only ‘hold’ your rental car for a limited time before offering it to another customer. This can be particularly difficult if you are collecting the car at an airport and your flight has been delayed.
Check the car hire company’s terms and conditions in advance, and also use an internet search engine to look at independent customer reviews to see if others have had a problem.
How to complain
If you are unhappy with any aspect of your car rental, you should complain to the company in the first instance, to give them a chance to put things right. If you are unhappy with the response, you could check if they are part of a trade association, who will have a Code Of Conduct, advice for consumers and a process for dispute resolution.
Alternatively, if you have hired the car abroad, you should contact the UK European Consumer Centre UK ECC), who will liaise on your behalf with the ECC centre in the country you hired the car in.
Or, if you hired the car locally, you should contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262. Consumerline is managed by Trading Standards Service, who are working with the local car hire companies to encourage best practice.