Customers Hit with Eye Watering Fuel Deposits, Additional Services & Silent Upgrades
65.7 Million of us decided to head off abroad in 2015 (ONS), whether on business or holiday. That’s an increase of 9.4% on 2014, spending a staggering £3.5billion more than they did in 2014!
With many people now by-passing the traditional high street travel consultancies, preferring to book their holidays online, the opportunities for dubious companies to fleece them have grown.
The Hire Car sector is a case in point! With many more people now arranging and booking their holidays, there has been a huge increase in the number of Brits who rent cars whilst abroad. There are almost as many rental companies as there are options of vehicles to hire. You can go 4×4 or topless, small and nippy, or large and luxurious. However, those holiday roads aren’t always smooth and the pot-holes can leave rather more of a hole in your bank balance than you imagine.
I’d hardly describe myself as a travel virgin. Having lived abroad for a number of years, I rather naively believed I was fairly unfleecable. So as the UK was bathed in another record-breaking Summer, I booked a week in Tenerife for the end of September.
Booking through OnTheBeach.com. For simplicity, I decided to book not only the hotel, but the flights and car hire through their website. Now here, for the uninitiated, is where things start to get interesting. That meant that I had a contract for the booking with Onthebeach, a contract with the hotel, a contract with the flight company (RyanAir), a contract with AffordableCarHire (UK based) and finally, a contract with a local car hire company GoldCar.
Tenerife was terrific! Wonderful weather, sumptuous scenery and the outstanding Canarian welcome that the group of Islands just off the West coast of Africa are famed for. The rental car which had cost £65.49 for the week, really enabled us to get the most out of our visit. However, little did I realise that 4 weeks after our return to the UK I would still be fighting for the return of money fraudulently taken from my bank account by GoldCar. Unbeknown to myself, GoldCar had decided to upgrade my vehicle (which incurred an additional charge) and add a raft of extra services, with the familiar additional charges. All in all they took more than £230 from my account. However, unable to do more than check the balance of my account whilst away, I was unable to see that this was the case until my return to the UK.
Of course as soon as I realised my first step was to contact AffordableCarHire, who said that they would investigate and get back to me. However a few days later I was told that the charges were all correct and that if I had a problem, I would need to take it up directly with GoldCar as they were the company I had the contract with. It would appear that once AffordableCarHire had got my money, they subcontracted my booking to another supplier and jettisoned any responsibility or accountability.
At this stage, the obvious hope of the companies is that I would give up and go back under the rock from whence I had slouched. I wonder how many people do just walk away, knowing that it was going to be an up-hill struggle trying to claw back money from a foreign company with all the inherent language difficulties. How much money are these companies fraudulently taking, I wonder?
When GoldCar finally acknowledged my email, I was told that they would investigate and be in contact. I very clearly gave them 7 days in which to do this. One week later, and after another message, they finally informed me that my account had been debited as I had requested an upgrade to the vehicle and had agreed to a number of additional services, neither of which were true, which I pointed out to them. After a further week GoldCar finally agreed that they had indeed taken it upon themselves to alter the conditions of my agreement without my consent in order to more than triple the original cost of the car.
“Hi Martin! After assessing your case with our central department, we have decided to refund you the amount you paid for the additional coverage and the upgrade you had as you didn’t request for any of these. The total amount refunded was 159,95€. You’ll receive the money back within the following days.”
Protecting yourself and your money :
- Always do a search on your chosen Car Rental Company – see what other customers say. If there are lots of angry people, it’s a good idea to give the company a wide berth.
- If you are booking the vehicle from the UK, using a UK based company, always ask them who they sub-contract to. Check out their provider.
- When leaving the fuel deposit check the amount very carefully that is to be debited or ring-fenced.
- When you take possession of the rental car, check the vehicle for any damage. If there are bumps or scrapes, make a note of them, even better if you are able to take photos. Check the fuel level as most companies require you to return them with the same amount of fuel.
- When returning the car, make sure that a representative of the company checks the vehicle with you.
- Ensure that you have returned the car with the correct amount of fuel. Failure to do this can result in the loss of your fuel deposit! It’s not a bad idea to take another photo of the fuel gauge, just in case when you get back to the UK there’s a dispute.
- Keep your rental documents until you have received any deposits back in full, these will help you in making any complaints.
- Let other people know how your experience went. Whether you had a brilliant service or one that left you wishing you’d walked. This is the best way to promote good companies and highlighting those to avoid.