A Which? investigation has found that nearly a third (32%) of prices for car hire extras weren’t being presented clearly online at the time of booking, despite an agreement last year from the big six brands to improve transparency.
Which? gathered more than 300 prices for car hire extras online from seven of the most popular companies. We found that more than half (51%) of Avis’s prices, 44% of Budget’s prices and 43% of Alamo’s prices were not clearly displayed in the final price breakdown, were either wrong or conflicting, or not available on the website at all.
This is despite the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) taking action to tackle this problem in July 2015 when Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt committed to improve transparency for consumers making website bookings and reservations.
Over a year later, there are still issues with pricing clarity. Our investigation also found that car hire companies could be breaking the law by not displaying mandatory charges during the booking process.
For instance, customers often face a compulsory charge when picking up a car in one location and dropping it off at another. Known as a one-way charge, it is unavoidable when applied however we found that in nearly 10% of cases these mandatory charges were not displayed anywhere online, meaning they are likely to be breaching the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
Which? found that Avis’ and Budget’s quotes for picking up a car at New York’s JFK and dropping off at Washington Dulles Airport didn’t include the mandatory £137 fee, and Europcar’s quote for picking up in Auckland and dropping off in Wellington didn’t include the £109 one way cost. Europcar blamed the omission on an ‘intermittent IT issue’.
Richard Headland, editor of Which? said:
“Despite car hire companies agreeing to greater transparency over the cost of extras, customers are still getting a nasty surprise at the rental desk.
“Improvements have been made since the CMA’s review, but there’s still a long way to go. We expect car rental companies to be upfront about all charges so that consumers can make an informed choice at the time of booking.”
Other issues uncovered by the investigation include:
- Many of the prices for extras are inconsistent, buried deep in the terms and conditions, or not displayed at all. Alamo’s additional driver fees for the UK, Italy and France weren’t presented up front and were only included in the small print. The fees for Cyprus weren’t displayed anywhere. Researchers were even given the wrong price for New York – the online quote was £53, but when they called they were told it should be £16.
- 18% of people surveyed by Which? said that they felt pressured into buying additional insurance at pick-up. Some were incorrectly told that their own third-party insurance was not valid or that additional insurance was mandatory. If the extra insurance isn’t compulsory, but the customer is made to believe it is, then that’s likely to be classed as an ‘aggressive commercial practice’ and is against the law.
- Don’t hire a satnav. You can download GPS apps for free on your smart phone, or even buy a dedicated device for less than the £109 a week Avis charged for a week in Italy.