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Car hire sites investigated over hidden charges

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Two car hire price comparison sites are being investigated by the competition watchdog following concerns customers are being hit with hidden charges and unexpected fees.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has confirmed it has launched enforcement cases against two car hire sites, but is not naming them.

It said there are concerns they may be breaking consumer law by slapping customers with hidden and unexpected fees such as for fuel or late night pick-ups and drop-offs.

The CMA has been working with car hire comparison sites to ensure customers get clear and accurate prices and it said it has seen “significant improvement in the accuracy and clarity of information on car rental price comparison websites”.

However, two businesses have been identified as potentially not making adequate improvements and as such, the CMA is also issuing letters to 40 companies asking them where necessary, to make improvements in order to comply with the law.

The watchdog has sent out guidance outlining its expectations of car hire firms, including for them to:

  • Set out all extra charges in the price first given to customers
  • Set out fuel pricing policies to customers
  • Warn customers them about high excess or deposits amounts.

James MacBeth, project director, said: “For many people hiring a car is an essential component to days out, holidays and trips. No one should be misled or face unexpected charges, whether they choose to book directly with the car hire company or through a comparison site.

“While we have seen improvements in the way car hire comparison sites quote prices, we are still concerned that some companies may not have faced up to their legal obligations, and as a result we have opened two enforcement cases.

“We expect this sector to provide clearer information about the true costs, and to explain upfront what customers will actually pay. Businesses must read our advice and make the necessary changes. If companies break the law they risk enforcement action, as these cases show.”

See’s How to avoid surprise costs at the car hire rental desk and How to challenge unfair car hire charges for more information.

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