Holiday Car Hire - Nasty surprises with hidden Dangers Prevail
Submitted: Wednesday, April 5th 2006
MEDIA STATEMENT For immediate release
EuroTest 2006 Holiday Car Hire - Nasty surprises with hidden Dangers Prevail
With spring in full bud and the holiday season just about to kick off, the results of the EuroTest 2006 holiday car hire survey provide a stark warning to all consumers who decide to hire a car while on holiday.
Threadbare tyres, worn brake pads, barely road worthy vehicles with 200,000 km on the clock, rental agreements with nasty surprises for the unsuspecting consumer such as a 1000 euro excess to pay in the event of damage to a nine year old car and brazen credit card charges for vehicle damage not caused by the customer were just some of the shocking findings generated by this survey.
During the survey, conducted during the peak summer season 2005, 58 vehicles were hired spontaneously on the spot from different rental firms - including global chains and local suppliers- located in ten popular holiday locations across Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Turkey.
Two distinct aspects were looked at in this EuroTest: the technical quality and safety of the vehicles hired including the provision of legally required in-car equipment e.g. warning triangles; and the quality of the rental procedure provided by the staff to the consumer - dealing with the inspections of the vehicle, the quality of the rental contract, billing procedures and also the insurance coverage provided.
Italy overall took first place followed closely by Greece and Portugal. Spain and Turkey were placed bottom of the list. The overall test winner was Avis in Hersonisos, Crete with a Hyundai Atos. The high scores achieved by winning rental firms were primarily due to the excellent technical condition of their vehicles. The worst vehicle in the whole survey, a 1992 Suzuki Samurai, rated as nothing more than a mobile scrapheap was found on offer in Alanya, Turkey by Avsar car rentals. With a bent steering column and tyres that were both torn and worn, faulty seat belts and broken headlights it was considered a serious threat to road safety.
A major common failing everywhere was the absence of compulsory in car equipment - e.g. warning triangles and first aid kits. It is unacceptable that paying consumers should be forced to accept vehicles that are not equipped in compliance with the legal requirements of the country thus also exposing themselves to fines and unsafe situations.
Time and time again the rental procedure proved to be the most disappointing element of the survey. Our experts found widespread practices and serous failings that often prove costly for the consumer. Vehicles were neither checked nor documented regarding damage before and after the rental; refuelling procedures and charges were not mentioned; availability and costs for child seats varied, mistranslated rental contracts contained surprising clauses; indeed no two of the 58 contracts were the same. Insurance cover was another stumbling block, in 22 cases the agreements were so incomprehensible even if it was in the tester’s own language that it was not clear what insurance cover was included in the costs nor what was the total cost.
A major problem is the discrepancy between what is said and what is actually recorded in the contract as well as the different coverage sums and the excess to be paid by the consumer in the event of an accident.
When hiring a car, the credit card is “King” .A signature on the rental agreement is usually taken as an authorisation to charge the card and hence is as good as a blank credit card slip. One tester discovered this the hard way in Bodrum Turkey. A sum of 300 euros was deducted from his credit card for alleged damage to the vehicle which it will be difficult to recover.
When renting a car on holiday consumers are strongly recommended to take out comprehensive damage insurance. The rental contract should clearly state the type of insurance coverage, the coverage sums and the excess. The vehicle should be carefully checked both before and after it is used and all findings should be documented. The rental agreement should be carefully checked form hidden costs such as vat or extra fees. Instead of leaving a blank credit card slip EuroTest recommends that a cash payment or sum is put on deposit that then also as to be authorised before being taken We all know that two heads work better than one! Anyone renting a car should take someone along or at the very least our EuroTest “Quick Check” this checklist is designed to help consumers take note of all the key details which if ignored could be costly.
The findings of this EuroTest make it clear that there must be greater harmonisation across Europe of consumers’ rights in this field. Our survey showed tat no two contracts were the same across the 58 rental firms encountered. The situation is highly opaque at present. The insurance cover sums and excesses varied greatly, as did the costs other services like refuelling. In only two out of 58 cases were the damages recorded both before and after correctly. What is desperately needed is a harmonised contract containing common clauses concerning the key elements of car hire.
According to Caroline Ofoegbu, FIA Director for EU Affairs, “Consumers should be able to go on holiday anywhere in Europe confident that the same conditions will prevail when hiring a car both in term of technical safety and contractual provisions”.
“The situation at present lacks clarity about what is contained in the contract, what insurances are paid, the level of excess etc. How can an excess of €1000 euros be possible for damage done to a nine year old car with 200,000 km on the clock?” she said.
In her view “The consumer is often at a disadvantage in such transactions with no option but to pay when the credit card as already been deducted. It’s a nasty surprise to receive upon returning from holiday. This would be a good topic for the European Union to consider in its current review of the Consumer Acquis.”
Notes to the Editor: The Car Hire Tests were conducted during the peak holiday season of 2005. The EuroTest consortium consists of 15 motoring and touring clubs form 14 European countries. Our aim is to test mobility and mobility related issues and to raise the awareness of the public and decision makers about the quality of mobility. We have successfully done so since 2000 and will continue this year with two new tests. For more information please visit: www.eurotestmobility.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.