August is when many UK residents head abroad to other EU countries for their annual holiday. Though rest and relaxation should be the number one priority, some fall victim to the opportunism of some scammers who view tourists as a way to a quick buck.
Often, these companies are not breaking any laws but they can leave us feeling confused and frustrated. There are numerous websites explaining how to avoid these scams, but I thought I would give a summary for my constituents in the South West and Gibraltar.
Number 1: High excess costs
Always read the small print. Sometimes, the deal that looks great online suddenly doesn’t appear so fantastic once you check the excess costs. It is possible to purchase an affordable excess waiver policy in the UK to cover you for your trip rather than purchasing direct from the hire-car company when you arrive at your destination. There are many stories from customers who have been told by the desk that they can’t have the keys until they purchase additional insurance (standard insurance is already included). My advice here is to stand your ground – you don’t have to purchase additional insurance if you have already purchased the above elsewhere.
Number 2: Fuel Costs
Many companies, particularly in Spain, are now running a ‘full-empty’ policy by which you pay for a full tank of fuel on arrival (often at higher costs than at the pump) and return it empty. The problem is that some people won’t drive enough to make paying for a full tank worthwhile, not to mention those higher than at the pump prices. It is possible to still find companies that don’t do this, so shop around.
Number 3: Extras
Its standard practice for hire-car companies to try and sell you extras, such as satellite navigation systems or child booster seats, but these are often things you don’t need or are highly expensive. My advice: be strong in saying no, or if you do need them then bring your own from home.
Number 4: Charging your credit card when you return home
Some hire-companies will extract money from your registered payment method for the slightest damage, without your advanced knowledge. The first piece of advice here is to check your credit card statements regularly once you get home. If you’ve followed point Number 1 and purchased an excess waiver policy, you should be able to claim money taken for any damages back. If you are certain the damage wasn’t caused by you, fight it. Send photos to the hire-car company (see Number 5) and keep contacting them. If the hire-car company isn’t listening, try contacting your credit card company to reclaim your money that way.
Number 5: Take Photos
It’s important to record any pre-existing damage to the car when you pick it up and again when you return it. Make a note of all existing damage and ensure the hire-car company accept your notes before you accept their vehicle – and don’t forget to do the same when you return the car. It’s also a good idea to take plenty of photos so you have proof if a hire-car company tries to take money from you later.
Number 6: Shop around and use a reputable company
My final piece of advice is to shop around and check online reviews. Websites and forums such as TripAdvisor are a good place to start.
If you still feel you have been treated unfairly then you can contact the UK European Consumer Centre on 08456 040503 which is an organisation jointly funded by the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation, and the European Commission.
More information here: