A holidaymaker was shortchanged by a car rental company that pocketed most of the deposit (Image: Squaredpixels)
Terry Gardner, a business owner and no slouch when it comes to figures, was furious to find that although he had put down £1,114.26 (around 1,299 euros) when he hired his vehicle for a week, only 1,194 euros were refunded. But after he challenged the shortfall, he was smartly rebuffed with “the refund of the deposit has been processed correctly and the amount charged has already been returned”.* ++ If you’ve been affected by this issue or feel you’ve been a victim of injustice, please contact consumer champion Maisha Frost on [email protected] ++
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With no resolution and because there were also other aspects of his experience that he was unhappy about, a few weeks ago Terry contacted Crusader, saying: “It’s not a huge sum if a one-off, but there’s still the principle.”
Terry hired his vehicle through comparison site DoYouSpain.com for pick up at Murcia airport. The short journey to a holiday home is one he does often and needing unlimited mileage in his contract has never been relevant, he says.
He paid the deposit by debit card. In retrospect this was a mistake as it left his account less protected and open to further payments being taken than had he used a credit card. With this method deposits taken are blocked or ring fenced for the hire duration, then unblocked.
A couple days after payment Terry got a warning from his bank Santander that a further small sum had been withdrawn in Spain.
Santander warned the victim a further sum of money had been withdrawn in Spain (Image: Getty)
“That transaction wasn’t me and Santander cancelled my card. I’m so glad they were vigilant as who knows where the trickle might have ended up,” he says.
The confusion continued however and although Goldcar refunded 16 euros (£13.92) in late April, Terry was angry to find an unlimited mileage charge had been added to his contract.
Crusader tackled the company, which did not respond, and also DoYouSpain, which confirmed it was asking Goldcar to reinvestigate and that currency exchange fees and rate may have affected the amount returned.
Terry rejects this and, as it is unclear what ones were used, confirming they were equal to the loss would always be extremely difficult.
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But his firm stand and Crusader’s pressure did however prompt a change of heart last week when Goldcar apologised to Terry saying its services had not been up to its usual high standard.
It was, it told him, reimbursing the difference and making goodwill gestures, although it maintained transfer fees had contributed and Terry had qualified for unlimited mileage.
For Terry justice has been achieved. “Well done and keep up the good work,” he told Crusader.
What options are there if only part of you car hire deposit is returned?
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Had Terry not been reimbursed what other options were open to him? A charge back on his debit card would not have applied. The free European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) helps customers resolve complaints but only with participating companies that include Avis, Hertz, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar and Maggiore.
The UK European Consumer Centre (UKECC), the cross border body helping consumers with free advice, confirmed however it was aware of cases of disputed reduced deposits, had had some success negotiating resolutions and would consider a case like Terry’s.
UKECC service director Andy Allen said: “We do receive cases where the consumer doesn’t receive the whole deposit back. This doesn’t always happen but it can be a problem.
“This type of case is something that the UK European Consumer Centre has come across before and has been successful with. We can try to help. We would need the consumer to contact us directly and for them to provide us with more information.
If customers are not reimbursed by a hire company, reconciliation services can help (Image: Getty)
“As a minimum, we would need a detailed account of what has happened, along with all correspondence from the companies concerned, the rental agreement and bank statements showing the payments.
“The UK European Consumer Centre can offer free advice and mediation assistance in relation to disputes with car hire companies located outside of the UK, in the European Union, Iceland and Norway. We are not an enforcement body but our intervention often has a positive outcome for consumers.”
For more details, visit www.ukecc.net or call 01268 886690 Monday-Thursday between 10 am and 4 pm, or email [email protected])