Is warning other car hirers not to sign
Birger and his wife had prepaid a rental car in Malaga. When they were to pick up the car, he had to pay a so-called deposit and sign a Spanish contract before the car was released to them. He is now warning other travellers against doing the same.
This summer, Birger and his wife headed for Malaga together with friends and family. Before their departure, Birger had booked and prepaid for a car via a booking portal. But when he was to pick up the car at the airport, the car rental operator demanded a deposit of around DKK 2500, which they said he would get back when he returned the car. And they then handed him a Spanish rental agreement, which he had to sign. He did so, and the money had already been drawn on his account before the group of happy travellers had reached the actual rental car.
When they returned the car, they were told that the money would be transferred to his account. It was – but not the full amount. He got DKK 900 back, but what about the rest?
“I wrote to both the rental portal and the rental company several times, but I got no answer. When I got through to their customer service, they hung up,” he explains and continues:
“I just feel so stupid. And I’m also really pissed off. When I got home and googled the rental company, I could see that they had a lot of really negative reviews."
He contacted his bank to hear whether they could help: Unfortunately, too much time had passed since he had paid the amount, so they could not do anything.
In the Spanish contract, Birger signed to confirm that he pays an insurance policy of around DKK 1500 despite having already paid for insurance when he rented the car via the rental portal. According to Claudia Lander Selck, legal consultant with European Consumer Centre Denmark, this is not uncommon:
“We often see that car hirers end up paying double insurance because, as in this case, they are charged an extra payment when they pick up the rental car. In the situation, they end up signing a contract without knowing the specific details – often because the contract is in a language they do not understand. Some car rental companies make a good profit from that.”
The signature binds
Birger contacted ECC Denmark for help, but because he had signed the contract, we could not help him afterwards.
“Once the consumer has signed a contract with the car rental company for, for example, the purchase of additional insurance, we can’t proceed with a claim against the rental company. It’s always frustrating when we can’t help consumers who have basically done everything by the book: They have pre-booked and paid for a car with insurance and end up being scammed anyway. I therefore hope that we can create awareness among even more car hirers so that they make sure to consult the reviews before booking the car and remember to read the contract. If it is in another language, it may be a good idea to ask for a translation into, for example, English,” says Claudia Lander Selck.
And Birger also wishes he knew about the challenges that can be associated with car rental before departing. He is therefore now warning others:
Check the firms BEFORE you travel and examine what you need to be aware of. And do not sign anything in a contract that you do not understand. I certainly will not do so in the future.