Renting a car in the EU

July 16, 2015

Are you looking to rent a car for your next trip? We have some good news for you. Five major car rental companies have agreed to review their practices for consumers to ensure clearer contract terms on insurance and refuelling, clearer prices, and fairer handling of damages.

This is a result of joint enforcement work by the European Commission and national consumer protection authorities including us. In recent years, there has been an increase in consumer complaints to European Complaints Centres about car rental services around issues such as:

  • Unclear prices, terms and conditions and insurance
  • Being charged after renting the car for damage or fines without being notified
  • Disputes about damage to the car

What exactly will this mean for you?

When making a website booking, all mandatory charges and deposits charged on your credit or debit card will be clearer. You will also have better information at the booking stage about optional extras, including the prices, exclusions and excess fees. The car inspection process will be clearer and fairer; you will be given a reasonable opportunity to challenge any damage before any payment is taken. The changes are gradually being implemented by the companies and most of them should be completed by the end of 2015.

What to look out for when renting a car

When you pick up your rental car, read through the rental agreement given to you at the desk. Always read the terms and conditions of this agreement, especially the small print. If you don’t understand anything, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation in writing. If you have made an advanced booking, remember that the rental contract only comes into effect when you sign the agreement.

  • Make sure you understand the type of insurance cover provided, including restrictions (for example, can you drive across borders or bring the car on a ferry), waivers and the policy excess.
  • Check the type of fuel the car uses and clarify the fuel policy. For example, does the vehicle come with a full tank and do you have to return it with a full tank?
  • Always check the condition of the car thoroughly, inside and out, before driving it away. The rental company should give you a diagram highlighting any existing damage to the vehicle, so check that any existing bumps or scratches have already been noted.
  • If you are not happy that the rental car is working as it should be, you should return it immediately and explain what the problem is. This will ensure that you are not charged for any damage or missing parts that existed before renting the car.
  • When returning the car, check what time the car needs to be returned as some companies may charge you if this is outside of office hours. Always ask to have the car inspected while you are there.
  • If the car was damaged when you had it, the outcome will depend on what type of insurance you took with the car rental and if you or someone else caused the damage. If you have caused damage to the car, the rental company will decide how much the damage will cost regardless of whether you can find a cheaper quote.

What to do if you have a complaint

If you have a complaint about the rental car or service, you should contact the rental company in writing. If you are not satisfied with the response you can contact the Car Rental Council of Ireland which has a complaints procedure for member companies. If you feel you have been misled by a car rental company registered in Ireland, you can contact us and make a complaint. If you have a complaint regarding a car rented in another EU country, you should contact the European Consumer Centre Ireland.

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