Car hire companies agree to shape up
The five big European car hire companies have agreed to improve their services for customers over the next six months.
Avis Budget, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Europcar, Sixt and Hertz will do more to help customers shop around for the best deals by arming them with more of the information they need during the online booking or reservation process.
They will also be more upfront about their pre- and post-rental vehicle inspection processes and improve the way they notify customers of dispute processes and charges for damage.
The agreement comes in response to the completion of an investigation into the industry by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
The CMA has recommended several ways the industry can improve, including ensuring that expensive excess insurance policies and waivers are not sold at rental desks as being mandatory.
The companies have also agreed to include all mandatory charges, such as young driver surcharges, in the headline price at the start of the booking process.
They will also provide clearer information during the early stage of the booking process about optional extras and the costs, alongside details about whether they can be purchased or pre-booked online rather than at the pick-up desk – where they are often sold at a premium.
The companies will also make customers aware of any need to pre-authorise a set amount of money onto the consumer’s payment card at the pick-up desk to cover damage.
Nisha Arora, CMA senior director, said: "We welcome the improvements made by the leading EU car rental companies to ensure that consumers are given clearer information upfront about their rental. These changes go a long way to ensuring that consumers know exactly what they are getting when they rent a car."
Ernesto Suarez, founder of independent car hire excess insurance firm iCarhireinsurance.com, added: "The fog of transparency that car hire firms have been operating in has been a scandal that we have been campaigning against since we launched in 2010. We're delighted that the Competition and Markets Authority has exposed these sharp practices for what they are and agreed a strict code of conduct for the rental companies.
"Car hire excess insurance is always the largest single outlay for travellers at the rental desk and can add around £100 onto a week's hire which is sometimes more than the original car hire cost."
This is more usually a feature of car insurance but it can also crop up in contents, mobile phone and pet insurance policies. An excess is the amount of money you have to pay before the insurance company starts paying out. The excess makes up the first part of a claim, so if your excess is £100 and your claim is for £500, you would pay the first £100 and the insurer the remaining £400. Many online insures let you set your own excess, but the lower the excess, the more expensive the premium will be.