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How to challenge unfair car hire charges

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Holidaymakers may be more used to surprises at the car hire rental desk, but you could be left reeling from extra charges on your credit card once you’ve returned home. Here’s how to fight excessive costs.

The competition watchdog has come down hard on car hire firms in recent years, ordering them to make pricing clearer for consumers who are often left surprised by extra costs heaped on at rental desks.

But what about extra charges holidaymakers face upon their return?

For those without excess insurance or collision damage waiver cover, any scratches, bumps or punctures picked up during your contract period can mean big repair bills. But worse still is if you’re blamed for damage to the hire car caused by a previous driver.

According to, one in seven of 2,000 people polled said they found damage on a hire car that was not highlighted on the checkout sheet. As such, 6% said the rental company accused them of damage they didn’t do, and 9% received unexpected charges once the car had been returned.

If you believe you’re in the right and/or you want to challenge excessive repair bills, here are the steps you need to take:

Query a claim within 14 days

To contest a damage claim brought by a rental company, the hirer should query it with the company within fourteen days, according to Ben Wooltorton, COO of

Money taken ‘under protest’

If you think money has been unfairly taken from your card, contact your car hire company and tell it the money has been taken ‘under protest’, says Emma Coulthurst from holiday price comparison site,

Section 75 claim

When using a credit card on purchases between £100 and £30,000, you are protected under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. If your goods or services are faulty or don’t arrive, the credit card company is jointly liable with the retailer which means you can claim a full refund from your card provider if you’re unable to get it from the retailer.

Wooltorton adds that section 75 can be used where there’s a dispute, even if the provider’s based overseas.

Complain to the relevant body

If you don’t get anywhere with your hire company, Coulthurst explains you should take your complaint to the relevant body, depending on where you hired the car: The European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) for a vehicle rental in Europe and the European Consumer Centres Network. Or the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) is the body to go to if you rented the car in the UK.

Small claims procedure

If disgruntled Brits have the stomach for it and you are pretty confident you are in the right, Woolterton suggests The European Small Claims procedure (Regulation (EC) No 861/2007) could be an option. It allows you to make a cross border claim for up to €5,000 for little cost other than a court registration fee.

Always check your hire car

To avoid any disputes, excessive costs and claims, Coulthurst says: “However tired you are feeling and keen to get away, spend the necessary time inspecting the car at pick up to ensure any marks and damage is recorded on the paper work. Also, read all of the paperwork carefully to ensure that you know what you are signing and you are not signing up for extras which you don’t want.

Ernesto Suarez, founder and CEO, of, adds that drivers should spend a few minutes taking photographs of the hire car at the start and end of the hire to provide a lasting record of the hire car’s condition which should stop any potential disputes with hire car companies in their tracks.

He says: “We see plenty of people getting charged for minor wheel damage or scratches on the bumper which were on the car when they picked it up but unfortunately were not noted in the paperwork. Sadly, in the modern world of vehicle rental this can be tantamount to writing a blank cheque to the rental desk.”

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