- Major companies admit to not always fixing dents and scratches they charge for
- Avis Budget, Hertz and Enterprise are among those to have been caught out
- Holidaymakers now face a bill of more than £2,000 for damaging their hire car
Louise Eccles Personal Finance Correspondent For The Daily Mail
British tourists are being billed hundreds of pounds for bogus repairs on hire cars.
Avis Budget, Hertz and Enterprise, which owns Alamo and National, admit to not always fixing dents and scratches they charge for.
Instead, they claim they accept a lower resale value when they get rid of the vehicle.
Europcar admits it does not always repair damage until it is about to dispose of a car.
Avis Budget, Hertz and Enterprise, which owns Alamo and National, admit to not always fixing dents and scratches they charge for
This allows it to pay significantly less for the work than the price charged to customers, as one paint job could fix several scratches.
The findings, from a Daily Mail investigation, have been passed to trading standards officers, who are already probing Europcar in the UK over claims it overcharged customers for repairs.
The firm said the case could cost it £30million in compensation and legal fees.
Labour MP Wes Streeting said: ‘To find that leading, trusted car hire brands are ripping off customers in this way is nothing short of a scandal.
‘Customers hand over significant sums of cash with the clear expectation those repairs will be carried out.’
He added that the Government should ‘act quickly to tighten the law if that proves necessary to end this practice’.
Labour MP Wes Streeting called the findings ‘a scandal’
Martyn James, of complaints website Resolver, said: ‘It is outrageous … For many, it’s nothing short of fraud and, given many of the repairs demanded from customers are highly questionable, it’s vital this matter is investigated and people are compensated.’
If drivers damage a hire car, they usually pay the first few hundreds of pounds of the repair bill – the insurance excess. But this excess is sometimes based on hypothetical repair costs, even if the car is never patched up.
The Daily Mail revealed earlier this month that holidaymakers now face a bill of more than £2,000 if they damage their hire car abroad.
The average excess charged by the six major hire car companies if you fly to France, Portugal, Greece or Spain this summer is £1,095. And Budget charges an excess of £2,188 if you hire a VW at Faro airport, in Portugal, during the first week of August.
Money Mail has also revealed that Budget would charge a damage excess of £8,416 on a Mercedes E-Class saloon car from the same airport.
Steve Nowottny of MoneySavingExpert.com said: ‘Car hire customers who’ve been hit with hefty repair bills will be frankly astonished to hear some of these repairs might never actually have been carried out.
‘It’s one thing to pay to put a car back in the state it was when you hired it – quite another to be charged if the car isn’t actually fixed, or isn’t fixed until much later.’ Lynette Taylor, 31, was charged £800 when she returned a Volvo estate to Europcar with a bumper scratch after a week in Switzerland, in April.
Two months later, the firm admitted the repairs had not been carried out – and may never be. In an email, Europcar explained: ‘The repair has not been done yet since this damage does not disturb the driving of the car.
‘Also, we decide if a damage gets repaired or not. It is simply not possible to have all damages repaired, otherwise we would have to charge loss of rental use to our customers and our cars would be in the body shop and not on the road.
‘The estimate is done by an external repairer.’ Mrs Taylor, of New Milton, Hampshire, said: ‘If they are not going to repair the car, then why on earth are they charging me for it?’
She believes her hire car was bumped by another vehicle in a car park. Europcar staff noted the scratch when she dropped it off at Geneva airport.
Mrs Taylor sent photos of the damage to a local mechanic, who told her it would cost £150 to fix. She suspects she is being charged for a new bumper, and has cancelled her credit card so Europcar could not take the money but said she is being pursued by the firm. She has handed details of the case to trading standards. A Europcar spokesman said it charged Mrs Taylor the lower of two ‘independent estimates’ it obtained, adding: ‘Our Swiss franchise has a policy of carrying out full repairs on all major damage … Minor damage is repaired before the vehicle goes into the used car market for resale.’
The spokesman declined to comment on whether the firm sometimes fails to fix damage before resale.
British tourists are being billed hundreds of pounds for bogus repairs for scratches and dents on hire cars (file image)
An Enterprise spokesman said that in 97 per cent of cases the vehicle is ‘repaired soon after’ the customer is charged, adding: ‘Occasionally we charge for damage but do not repair vehicles if they are due to be sold … we would accept that they have a lower resale value.’
A spokesman for Avis Budget said it repairs damage immediately if there is a safety issue, adding that other repairs may be carried out after another rental or as part of a resale, ‘to maintain the highest level of vehicle availability’.
In some cases, it does not repair the car before selling and instead ‘absorbs a reduction in the sales price’.
A Hertz spokesman said: ‘We might choose to delay small or minor repairs provided they will not impact the safety of our customers … we might also choose not to repair a damaged vehicle before selling … the resale value will fall in line with the damage caused.’
They added: ‘Annually, we pay more overall for repairs than we recover from our customers.’ The British Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, which represents car hire firms, said that if they do not plan to fix damage immediately or at all, they often use a price ‘matrix’ that estimates repair costs.
A spokesman said this allowed them to charge ‘independent, consistent and justifiable compensation’.