Big Six Hire Car Companies Agree to Stop Ripping Off Customers (With a Little Prompting from Regulators)

If you've ever booked a rental car thinking you've found a great deal, only to discover the price almost doubles when you arrive at the rental desk, you'll be one of millions who will be celebrating at the news that European regulators have finally brought the big six rental companies to the table and demanded they clean up their act.

As one poor reddit user learned recently, car rental companies have been involved in some pretty shady practices of late when it comes to charging for damage and other expenses. In the case linked, Reddit user 'Davevd' discovered far too late that many rental car agreements contain clauses allowing customers to be charged for vehicle damage, even if it didn't happen while they were in possession of the car. On top of this, companies will often debit their customers' credit cards before they even inform them that the car was damaged, meaning it's up to the customer to prove any damage wasn't their fault to get their own money back.

"I [got] a 'Contracted Damage Liability Fee' 3 months later for 2 dents which could have only already been there. They've already taken a payment from my CC account, $600, which was 'due', before I even received the letter."

Under the new agreement between Hertz, Avis/Budget, Europcar, Enterprise/Rent-A-Car, Sixt and the UK regulator the CMA, the rental car companies have agreed to provide seven days for customers to dispute any damages to the vehicle before their cards are debited for the cost, meaning customers won't be suddenly left without any money for damage that wasn't their fault (like the poor guy above).

While the changes may be too late for that unfortunate customer, it is definitely good news for future travelers that these kinds of practices will be phased out across the European Union by 2016.

If you're taking out insurance with you'll also be pleased to know that the same companies have agreed to tone back their 'hard sell' practices at the rental desk, meaning you will no longer be dragged over hot coals as they try to sell you insurance you don't need if you've taken out one of our policies.

You can read the full details of the new regulations brought in by the CMA over on their website if you're into that sort of thing, or you can read this brief rundown of the changes we put together:
•  Online booking prices will now be clearer. No more surprise extra costs at the rental desk when you realise the price you paid didn't actually include a steering wheel or tires.

•  Information about insurance and excess waivers will now be clearer and simpler, or at least as clear and simple as insurance descriptions can be.

•  It will now be explained to the customer how the inspection process for damage works when you collect and drop off your vehicle (Remember: always go through an inspection of your car and record any damage with your hire company before leaving the rental desk).

•  Customers will now be "better notified" about charges for damages before being charged (by which they mean customers will actually be notified) and they will have clearer ways to dispute these costs if they are charged in error.

Let's hope the US and Asia Pacific follow suit in the not too distant future!

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