Did you ever book a car online and find out you had to pay more when you get to the rental desk? Last year, this was the case of 2,000 consumers in Europe, who reported these issues to the European Consumer Centres, which help consumers when they travel or buy cross border.
Following a strong increase of the number of complaints on car rental issues, the European Commission and national consumer authorities engaged with the five leading car rental companies to address these issues.
Today, the authorities decided to conclude this phase of the enforcement cooperation. They are satisfied with the changes brought by the five industry leaders, Avis, Europcar, Enterprise, Hertz and Sixt, to their commercial practices, which now comply with EU consumer rules. The EU trade association, Leaseurope, which helped set up the action from the industry side, is also developing further their guidelines for the whole car rental sector.
Věra Jourová, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality said: "Today is a great day for European consumers. We worked hard with the car rental companies to guarantee that people across the EU can rent a car and are treated fairly – no matter where in the EU they rent a car. I thank the national consumer authorities for their excellent work and the car rental companies for their cooperation. Consumers across Europe can now enjoy their rights and be better protected."
Thanks to this dialogue with national consumer authorities, facilitated by the European Commission under the lead of the UK Competition and Markets Authority, consumers will benefit from the following conditions:
- The total booking price includes all unavoidable charges. For example, when winter tyres are compulsory by law in some countries, the price will include these in the headline price.
- Key rental services description in plain language. Consumers will be provided with clear information about the main characteristics of the rental (mileage included, fuel policy, cancellation policy, deposit requirements, etc.).
- Information on additional insurance is clear. Consumers will be provided with the price and details of optional extras, in particular for insurance waivers that reduce the franchise to be paid in case of damage. What is covered by the waiver in the basic rental price and in any additional insurance must be clearly indicated before the consumer buys such products.
- Transparent fuel policies. Consumers will be always given the option to get the car with a full tank and bring it back full.
When it comes to damages:
- Clear procedure for vehicle inspection. Consumers will be provided with reasons and evidence of any damage, before the payment is taken.
- Fair damage handling processes. The consumer is given the chance to challenge any damage before the payment is taken.
The European Commission and national consumer authorities will continue to monitor the car rental market closely. The Commission will focus particularly on the practices of other market players, such as intermediaries and other car rental companies. All players should offer the same level of transparency on the service and the cost.
The Commission, European consumer authorities and the five major car rental companies - representing two out of three of all private car rentals in the EU - started a dialogue in 2014 after the European Consumer Centres received a large number of complaints from tourists across the EU (see IP/15/5334).The five major car rental companies Avis, Europcar, Enterprise, Hertz and Sixt have now changed and improved their commercial practices, contract terms and internal policies within this dialogue and implementation of the changes is now completed.
The number of complaints for the car rental sector doubled between 2010 and 2016, while the overall number of complaints received by ECCs only increased by two thirds. There were about 1,050 cases in 2012, 1,750 in 2014, and more than 2,000 in 2016. This evidence of widespread problematic practices in car rental seen by ECCs led the European Commission to ask the national enforcement authorities, under the lead of the UK Competition and Markets Authority, to act jointly at EU level to require the car rental industry to better comply with EU consumer legislation.
The EU Consumer Protection Cooperation (CPC) Regulation brings together national consumer authorities in a pan-European enforcement network, through which a national authority in one EU country can call on its counterparts in other EU country to coordinate the response to widespread consumer issues. The European Commission facilitates this work.
Peter from Cologne had rented a car for his holiday in Nice with his family. He however drove over a small rock and informed the car hire company on his return. There was no obvious damage to the car. Peter thought he would hear no more, but very soon discovered his credit card had been debited with more than EUR 600. He immediately protested. But the car hire company insisted that Peter had to pay without explaining that the basic rental service he was given did not cover damage to the underneath of the car as this was only described somewhere in small print. Peter called on the German European Consumer Centre.
Now, the five leading car rental companies have to clearly inform consumers about what is covered in the basic car rental service especially what damages would not be covered or would be concerned by a franchise. In addition, the car rental company would have to present the actual bill for the repair or a fair assessment of the cost of the repair to Peter, before they can bill his account.
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EU Consumer policy - enforcement