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Rental car companies announce improvements for consumers

Success for EU Commission and ECC-Net

Car rental companies tended to cause anger among consumers in the past. Many conflicts are based on lack of transparency regarding the online booking process as well as payment demands due to alleged damages on the car.

The European Commission turned to this problem in cooperation with the Network of European Consumer Centres (ECC-Net) and national enforcement bodies. After an EU-wide action, a so called "sweep", first steps had been taken (as ECC Austria reported). Now, five leading rental car companies promised to evaluate their services with regard to EU consumer rights and consumer friendliness.

More information and transparency

The five companies who announced improvement of their practices, are: Avis Budget, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt. They want to implement the following changes until the end of the year:

  • Improved transparency when booking online:
    • Clearer information about all mandatory charges and optional extras;
    • Clearer information about key rental terms and requirements, including deposits charged on the consumer's card;
  • Better information at the booking stage about optional waiver and insurance products, including their prices, exclusions and applicable excesses.
  • Improved and more transparent fuel policies
  • Clearer and fairer vehicle inspection processes
  • Improved practices for taking additional charges from customers: consumers are given a reasonable opportunity to challenge any damage before any payment is taken.

(© European Commission, press release, 13. July 2015)

Open points

Regardless of these efforts, consumer protection authorities still see potential for further improvements. One example is the still unanswered question about liability of consumers for car damages made by third persons. Also the role of brokers and intermediaries sometimes causes confusion among consumers, as well as the insurance coverage offered in car rental packages.

The cross-border characteristic of the car rental sector leads to another question: When a consumer rents a car during a journey in another Member State, consumer protection authorities argue that he should be provided with the terms and conditions of the contract in his own language.

According to the respective press release, the EU Commission wants to further monitor these open points in the future.

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