New EU-wide rules promise more clarity on car rental pricing

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The Competition & Markets Authority recently released details of an EU-wide settlement which it has agreed with Avis Budget, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Europcar, Sixt and Hertz.  Within six months, all of these firms will make fundamental changes to the way in which they sell their cars online.

The list of agreed changes is long and varies from firm to firm depending on their existing processes.  You should expect to see:

Car rental montage

Young Driver Surcharges included in headline prices

Clear information about pricing of optional extras

All optional extras to made available for purchase during booking and not held back for sale only at pick up

Clearer information about key terms and conditions

Clearer upfront information about the size of the credit or debit card preauthorisation that will be required

Optional waiver and insurance products to be outlined during the booking process, including the pricing, exclusions and applicable excesses

Information about the pre and post rental vehicle inspection process

No damage payments to be made to credit or debit cards before the customer is given a ‘reasonable opportunity’ to challenge them

A BBC report on these changes mentioned one which was not covered in the CMA press release.  Customers will no longer be forced to pay upfront for a non-refundable full tank of petrol, however full the tank when the car is returned.  This may end up being the biggest change.  This is not usually an issue in the UK but is a well known problem when hiring in Europe.

To be honest, at least with Hertz (which is the firm I use the most), I have never had any major issues with clarity during the booking the process.  I did, however, once have a Hertz employee in London make up a fake damage claim when I returned the car and then offer to waive it if I paid him £50 in cash ….

More information on these changes can be found on the CMA website here.

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  1. Ronster says:

    These changes are a move in the right direction.

    I’ve experienced the good the bad and the dam right ugly from both the large multinational to the much smaller independents.

    From free up grades and bottles of chilled water been given out by Avis staff, when its 35 degrees centigrade ….to smaller outfits wanting to charge me my whole car security deposit for a 2mm paint chip?!

    In Italy they love charging for extra for what should be considered, standard obligatory equipment for a car to have to be on the road.

    This can be from high visibility jacket to cars not carrying obligatory snow chains.In some parts of Italy you need them on board from Mid November to mid April and you don’t even have to be near a ski resort either, so do check.

    With many airports connecting to motorways, no matter which way you turn from the terminal, you will see clear police indications of the above conditions. Thus you have no choice but to have them onboard or face a hefty fine!?

    Rather than get into a legal argument with the staff when collecting a car.I have always claimed these additional extra charges back via American Express Travel Services.Since the contracts rarely have specified that these are additional charges that should be paid by the collecting driver and not the actual hire car firm itself.

    The hire car fire own the vehicle and are thus responsible for supplying that vehicle with any additions needed to make it legal and fit for purpose to be on the road.

    I also follow the following code:-
    1)Always double check the car for scarps and marks.
    2)Always make the agent note them down before leaving the car hire office.
    3)Don’t forget to take pictures of the car before leaving including the milage and fuel indicator level and the same again on return

    There is no guarantee that they won’t try it on, but if they do, you will be in a better position.


  2. Andrew says:

    Good news.

    Worth noting that Firefly – the Hertz low-cost company with strong presence in Spain (and whose advert was served for me at the bottom of this article) don’t seem to be playing ball:

  3. Martin Deutsch says:

    I suppose the next argument will be whether this just applies to cars hired in the EU or not.

    I don’t rent cars often, but recently booked a car via Avis UK’s website to drive in the US. My agreement was with Avis UK, and made no mention of the “convenience fee” I was charged for using the EZ-Pass toll transponder – $16.75 on top of a $3.50 toll. Avis UK knew nothing about it; the local office told me the fees were written on the transponder itself.

    Rather than argue with Avis, I just claimed it back from my credit card company (Halifax didn’t bat an eyelid – they don’t bother chasing the merchant for disputes under a tenner), but these new rules would make it an interesting fight in the future.

    • Tariq says:

      That was going to be my question – does this apply only to cars picked up from rental offices in the EU or bookings made in the EU for pickup worldwide? I’d guess at the former. Got shafted by Budget a few weeks ago who lied to me at the rental counter and said I needed to accept additional insurance at the counter as otherwise I was liable for the whole cost of the car. Read the agreement properly later and the prepaid rate already included insurance and I’d accepted the pointless personal possessions/personal accident insurance. Grr!

  4. We got hit with a large bill for hiring the sat nav this time. We use Avis – used them in Boston in Oct 14 and got charged £56 at the pick up point which was ok. We just came back from California and we were charged £125 for about the same amount of hire time. That’s a large bill on top of the hire charge already paid. I suspect we will get a toll bill in the post at some point too!

    • Tariq says:

      When hiring with Hertz in the US, I always untick nav when it comes up preselected in the options. Always find it in the car on arrival, and don’t get charged for it. 🙂

    • You’re better off taking a Smart Phone and car holder if you have one. You can download navugation apps with offline maps for most destinations (so no mobile data required) or if you’re on Three you can use your home allowance in Feel At Home countries such as the US.

      If not otherwise on Three picking up a pay as you go sim for travel purposes can also be a cost effective solution.

      • Fenny says:

        I always used to buy a AT&T prepaid SIM when travelling to the US. Now I have a 3 SIM I use solely for travelling, as the top ups never expire and you can have a data only package if you’re not likely to make a lot of calls. A fiver for 500Mb is usually more than enough for a fortnight, if you’ve got wifi in the hotel.

        • David says:

          You also get a 150MB free data allowance with each £5 topup (and this data can be used in Feel at Home countries too).

        • Also worth noting the 50p daily internet option actually runs until midnight UK time on the day after you activate it (or it did last time I used it). It is actually limited (something like 200MB from memory) but should be good for a couple of days use unless downloading/streaming large files.

    • I’m somewhat confused by your post. Did you agree, or not, to the satnav charge in California before you rented the car with Avis? If you did, what’s your gripe exactly? 🙂

      • My gripe was the increase in cost from just a few months ago. I booked with Avios who say you can’t prepay for the sat nav so you must pay the charge on arrival. The jump from £56 to £125 for the same amount of rental time seemed excessive to us.

  5. Frankie says:

    That’s shocking about the Hertz employee Rob. Did you report him/her?

  6. What's the Point says:

    The EU finally meddling where it makes sense!

    I recently nearly got suckered into hiring a car from a smaller Spanish operator without reading the T&Cs.
    They were charging a non-refundable re-fuelling charge of 40 Euro – this was in addition the full cost of the tank of fuel they were going to charge me for as well. No refunds for bringing any fuel back either.

  7. Imbruce says:

    I would also like to see them get rid of the bogus charge of road fund licence fee.
    I am not sure why we should have to pay this fee when it is part of the running costs of a rental
    vehicle. Just checked Hertz UK & Australia they both charge it.
    Also 1.5% credit card fee another blatant ripoff.

    • What's the Point says:

      Hertz UK are unlikely to pay any road fund licence on the majority of their rental vehicles. RFL is only charged (currently) on cars in year 1 which emit more than 130 g/km. So unless you are choosing a large car or people carrier, most of Hertz’s rental should be zero RFL.

  8. Oliver says:

    Excellent. The only thing in the world I hate spending money on is car hire. Mostly because of all the hidden charges that they hit you with when you go to collect. Also that they take £1000 deposit on a card and want to charge the whole lot for a scratch. Bring on airbnb for cars

  9. Kim H says:

    Interesting re Hertz and spurious damage claims, as I am currently pretty hacked off with Hertz Austria. Rented a car in Vienna, great car, no problems. Couldn’t get it checked over when I returned it as the pick up and drop off are in separate locations at the airport and the drop off office was shut- but the pick up office took the keys.
    Got an invoice a few days later charging me €70 for damage with no details at all. Emailed, called and tweeted Hertz UK customer service, who all were unable to give me details as the rental agreement was still ‘open’ in Austria. Eventually got an email a week or so later saying that the charge would be refunded (but no one could give me any details)…. which it was but I am down the bank charges as the wrong credit card was on file.

    Then I got a notification by post of a speeding fine and a Hertz admin charge, for which I had to fax (?!?) my credit card details to Hertz Austria’s fines dept. So while they’d quite happily take the charge from my card for made-up damage, they couldn’t do so to satisfy their admin charge…!

    For the record I emailed a photo of the document they wanted by fax and they seem to have taken the money, although the email was never acknowledged.

  10. Roger says:

    Having previously enjoyed 50% off rack rates with Avis as a shareholder in Avis Europe (no longer, bought out by Avis Inc), I gave up on Avis when they introduced new T+Cs converting charges to € – at their rate. No problem in Euroland but DCC elsewhere. 🙁

    I now use brokers such as the former Holiday Autos with suitable discounts. The last two times have shown local rental brands in US and South Africa, so easier to make a choice.

    I’ve not had great problems with scams, other than the seemingly mandatory ZAR 20 ‘refuelling’ charge at CPT by different agencies, not huge but symptomatic of a corrupt system.

    • What's the Point says:

      A S Africa car rental desk is the only time I have ever had my credit card cloned – in over 20 years of using credit cards.

  11. Slightly off topic.. I’m considering buying a year’s rental insurance from which will enable us to refuse CDW when we rent in the Caribbean/US and cover the excess on our upcoming trip to Italy.

    Anyone have any experience of using them / making a claim?

    • Yes, before I took out my Amex plat, I used the car hire excess firms. Worked great when I needed to make a claim. Make sure that £55 cover includes North America. Sounds cheap. I used to pay around £100 a year for worldwide cover in 2012

      • It’s actually – £55 is the deluxe worldwide annual rate for rentals up to 31 days.

      • It does include North America – states all countries in the world.

  12. No experience of the company you mention, but I have used They were incredibly slow in sorting out a relatively small claim earlier this year.

    • I’m in dispute with Hertz UK at the moment re CDW. The Hertz website says in more than one place that it is optional cover in most cases – in fact, it specifically says it is only compulsory for prestige vehicles.
      My quote listed CDW as an option that had not been included – along with one-way rental, young driver surcharge, additional driver surcharge, sat-nav etc (none of which I had selected). I always refuse the extra insurance in my online bookings and when the sales agent at the counter tries to upsell it.
      However, my post-rental invoice for a 10 day rental came with the nasty surprise of GBP180+ for CDW, despite that it had not been discussed at the counter.
      Hertz is arguing that CDW is compulsory in the UK and I ought to have shown evidence of existing insurance to be excepted from the charge. I argue that I had not selected the service, nothing in their terms and conditions says it’s compulsory and if they wanted proof of other cover, they ought to have asked for it – certainly they should have told me they were intending to charge it so we could have had the discussion. Has Hertz only recently started quoting without CDW? I’m a fairly regular renter and this is not a charge I’ve ever needed to discuss with them before.
      My responses from Hertz sadly fail to engage on this (they seem to think it is enough to say that (they think) the charge is correct – without giving supporting evidence).
      Maybe I ought to write to my insurer and let them take it up.

      PS Kim H -I understand that the car hire companies can’t charge your card for speeding fines etc because paying a fine is technically admitting an offence, which is not something they can do on your behalf. Admin charge wouldn’t be subject to that rule.

      • I think the easiest solution here would be to dispute the charge with your credit/debit card provider, including the relevant evidence, and Hertz will then have to justify the charge to them.

        I doubt that your insurer would be interested in taking it up since the fact that you had it presumably reduced the risk to them anyway.

      • Kim H says:

        Ah, thanks for explaining that Ali C. It was only the admin charge – yet another weird Hertz thing clearly!

        I think CDW is required in the UK but only as some form of insurance – and most companies have something included as standard, but that is any CDW / general insurance with any excess…. I once hired from Sixt at heathrow (will not start a rant about them) where the excess was £2000 if I didn’t pay for the excess waiver at £6/day….

        Surely if it is illegal not to have it, its illegal to sell car hire without it?! I would definitely do as Mark suggests and instruct your card provider to dispute it…

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