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The long list of surprise extras that holidaymakers have to pay when hiring a car could become a thing of the past after comparison websites were ordered to clean up their act.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has told the major car hire websites that they must offer a “transparent drive-away price – including every mandatory charge and any options they choose” to buyers before they agree a deal.

Currently, holidaymakers seeking to hire a car are lured by ultra-cheap deals, only to find that the cost can easily double once other fees and charges are thrown in.

The CMA identified seven areas of concern, such as the “full to empty” petrol charge. This practice, particularly popular in Spain, infuriates drivers who pay an inflated price for the petrol on arrival then often have to hand the car back with a half-full tank.

Other add-ons that will be under CMA scrutiny include:

  • Excesses and the cost of reducing them – where the car hire company tries to make drivers buy expensive insurance.
  • Pre-authorisations or deposits – where £1,000 or more is blocked from a credit card if the driver declines insurance.
  • Collision damage waiver exclusions – such as damage to tyres where drivers are forced to pay up even if they purchased the insurance.
  • Young driver surcharges.
  • One-way fees.
  • Warnings about the need for snow chains (a legal requirement in some countries in winter).

In a letter sent to big car hire comparison sites, the CMA says: “If you comply with these changes the CMA is less likely to prioritise enforcement action against you.”

The industry has been given until early January 2017 to make changes to their selling processes.

Action begun last year, co-ordinated across EU countries, has already resulted in five leading EU car rental companies committing to improving the way they deal with customers.

James Macbeth, CMA project director, said: “The changes made by car hire companies earlier this year are already having a positive impact for holidaymakers hiring a car in the UK and abroad. However, we know that a significant amount of business is done through comparison websites and we are confident that by working with them we can ensure an even better service for motorists.

“[This] will make it easier to shop around, compare different providers and get the best deal. We welcome the willingness to improve practices we have already seen from the industry and expect that to continue.”

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