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Renting a car in an EU Member State

It’s holiday season and renting a car is surely a convenient way to travel around in another country. However, car rental remains a source of complaint for a lot of consumers during and even after the rental period.

In this article, we will have a look at what are the most common issues consumers have to deal with when renting a car and what they should be made aware of to avoid disappointments.

It must be pointed out that there is no specific legislation that regulates the industry of car rental. However, consumers are protected by generic consumer legislation, such as legislation against unfair commercial practices and unfair contract terms.  

When in need of hiring a car, consumers would normally search the internet using terms such as ‘car hire’. By doing so, they would get links to price comparison sites, intermediary sites and the actual website of different car rental companies. If consumers choose to book through an intermediary site, ideally they should check with whom the contract is being made and what the terms and conditions are, what is included in the price, the deposit amount that needs to be paid, the insurance required and any extra charges included in the rental agreement.

Additionally, consumers must be aware of the policies adopted by the rental companies, such as fuel and deposit. The most popular fuel policy is the ‘full-to-full’ option, where one gets a full tank of fuel upon pick-up and then has to return the car with a full tank. There is also the option of picking up the vehicle with a full tank and returning it empty (full-to-empty). One is advised to check what the policy used is, how it is applied and if any charges or requirements apply.

Another area where consumers tend to face numerous  problems is when it comes to the deposit. Consumers usually wouldn’t know what the deposit amount is, or that the amount stated on the intermediary site is different to that of the car rental provider. Consumers do not realise that such amounts could be blocked from the card for a long time. In addition, it would be ideal to check what the card requirements are.

Consumers may be able to book the car using their debit card, but then they may not receive the rental car if they do not provide a credit card. Some rental companies may even require two credit cards to be provided or they may require the credit card to be in the main driver’s name.

There is no specific legislation that regulates the industry of car rental. However, consumers are protected by generic consumer legislation

When collecting the car, consumers often complain that they were forced to buy an additional expensive insurance cover by the rental company. During the booking process, consumers are  advised to check what type of insurance policy they will be covered with and the excess that needs to be paid in the event of an accident.

When it comes to excess cover, consumers complain that the car hire representative obliged them to pay an excess cover to provide for repairs in case of an accident. Once again, it is important to read the terms and conditions of the rental agreement to clarify this.

Furthermore, it may happen that the consumer is already covered by another insurance policy. If this is the case, it is important that the consumer knows the details so that these can be shown to the representative of the car rental at the pick-up point.

During collection, a staff member usually checks the condition of the car. At this point, all damage noted should be indicated on a special diagram and the consumer should ask to have a copy of it. If a staff member is not present to inspect the car, it is important to inspect the car and if there are any damages, one should make a written note of this and take photos of such damages. This  should also be carried out when returning the car. The photos can be used as proof if the company accuses consumers  of prior damage to the car.

Consumers should remember these tips when renting a car:

During the booking process consumers should take screenshots of the booking terms and conditions just in case one would need proof should things go wrong.

Also, check if there are any surcharges related to the airport and other locations. If one is unsure about any charges, especially those in relation to insurance charges and deposits, it would be best to contact the company for clarification.

Before booking the car, consumers are also advised to check if they require an international driver’s permit and whether they need to be of a certain age, as some companies may request an additional charge for drivers under 25.

More information about this topic can be found at the ECC Malta website or by calling the ECC on 2122 1901 for free help.

This information has been provided by the European Consumer Centre Malta.

Odette Vella is director, Information, Education and Research Directorate, Office for Consumer Affairs, Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority.

odette.vella@mccaa.org.mt

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