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Car hire firms make charges clearer

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Car hire firms including Europcar and Sixt have made changes to how they display charges and other key information on their websites after intervention by the competition watchdog.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said customers will now know exactly how much they are paying upfront.

The move comes after a CMA review found car hire firms were still providing unclear information on some of their websites.

In 2015, Avis Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, Sixt, and Europcar made a series of commitments to the CMA, European Commission and other consumer enforcement authorities across Europe. These included providing customers with the total price they will pay at the start of the booking process and clearer information about any other costs, such as excess amounts and deposits.

But, after reviewing the firms’ practices, the CMA found that in some cases customers could still be hit by hidden costs or misled by unclear information.

After leading a Europe-wide project to address these concerns, the CMA is now satisfied that the five companies are making the necessary changes to make sure that key information is displayed clearly and prominently.

These changes will also apply to Goldcar following its recent acquisition by Europcar, and, as this action has been taken across Europe, consumers across the EU will benefit from CMA’s work.

George Lusty, senior director for consumer protection at the CMA, said: “No one should be misled or caught out by hidden fees when renting a car.

“The big 5 told us in 2015 they would update their practices, but we’ve found they weren’t doing all that they’d committed to. Following our further intervention, the charges people see on the big 5’s websites will be clear, prominent and accurate, allowing customers to choose the best possible deal for them.

“We’ll keep the firms under close review to ensure they deliver on their commitments.”

The commitments the firms made in 2015

In 2015, Avis Budget, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Europcar, Sixt and Hertz, which in total represented around two thirds of the UK and EU markets, agreed to introduce the following improvements:

  • improved transparency when making a website booking or reservation: consumers will now have more of the key information they need to shop around for the best deal for them.
  • Better information at the booking stage about optional waiver and insurance products.
  • More upfront information about pre- and post-rental vehicle inspection processes.
  • Improved notification of, and dispute processes for, any charges for damage.

Further action to protect UK holidaymakers

The CMA has also taken separate action against two Spanish car hire companies following concerns that UK holidaymakers were being misled by their practices.

Centauro Rent-A-Car and Record Go Alquiler Vacacional have now agreed to improve the way they display information on their websites, ensuring that they include all compulsory charges upfront.

Lusty said: “If a firm sells to UK customers, they do so under UK law and must answer to it.

“We are prepared to act if we find any that any company is misleading UK customers – be it based in the UK or abroad.”

For more, see: Common car hire traps: how to avoid surprise costs at the rental desk

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