Cars & Garages > Stories

Car rental firms ripping off British tourists

Patrick Christys
May 6, 2019

Car rental firms are essentially a front for what appears to be a total racket. 

In fact, they shouldn't rent out cars, they should rent horses, because they're a bunch of total cowboys.

The issue is, they've got you by the, ahem, town halls. The proverbials...

They know you need a car, they know you need a car right away and they also know that, normally anyway, when you hand that car back in to their offices, you're about to get on a flight back home.

So this gives them huge scope to rip you off, especially as you may well be in a different country to them very shortly.

Can you actually PROVE that you didn't scratch the bumper? Or that you returned it with a full tank of petrol? Or that it wasn't returned late? Possibly not. And that's how they take you to the cleaners.

None more so than Spanish firm Goldcar. This organised money grabbing operation that they call a car hire firm has just been voted number 1 on the list of rental companies Brits should avoid this summer, according to Which?

They're owned by Europcar, a company that has also come in for a fair bit of stick online.

You won't believe the tales of woe from some of our A Spokesman Said complainants. There's a theme: You pay a hefty deposit, they then claim there's damage to the car when you return it and threaten to withhold your deposit unless you pay for the damage to the vehicle. 

They also tell you you're going to get your deposit back, only for customers to find a seemingly random €150 charge...for getting your money back.

This is like something out of a dodgy Hollywood straight-to-DVD film about mafia culture in New York. Who is Goldcar run by? Don Car-leone? 

Frankly, the whole car hire industry is like a giant cesspit full of mosquitoes that want to suck every penny out of your wallet. They prey on the fact that you're pressed for time and in a high pressure situation. They lie, they cheat - they're the business equivalent of Diego Maradona's left hand.

Suzy spoke to A Spokesman Said about her Goldcar nightmare: "I return the car and the man walks round the car says all fine, he gets in the car notes down the mileage etc checks the fuel is full, and he says all is ok.

"I repeatedly asked is everything ok with the car and will I receive my full amount back that has bee ring-fenced on my card, I was told yes I would, I asked when and he said today.

"That was Saturday today is Tuesday, I now find they have released the ring-fenced amount of 1550 euros but charged my card 150 euros. I had no idea what the 150 euros is for so spent £4.99 on Skype credit and called there customer services department in Spain.

"They informed me it was for cleaning! The gentleman could not deal with my complaint on the phone and directed me to fill out a form from their website.

"I then contacted Visa as far as this is an unauthorised transaction with no paperwork, I hold the paperwork where the Goldcar employed wrote OK on the check in of the car and stamped it. I had no knowledge of this inflated onerous charge.

"Visa have been really helpful And have suspended this payment whilst investigation can take place. Extremely annoyed I am having to spend time and energy on this, however I won’t be letting it drop until a satisfactory solution has been provided by Goldcar."

Anne also shared her terrible experience with Goldcar, saying: "The Goldcar employee who looked over the car with me and filled in the damage report was very relaxed regarding the condition of the car and said 'don't worry about small scratches only large damage, don't worry about scratches to the wheels, don't worry about the interior'.

"He made a few scribbles on the paperwork sketch of the car and we were on our way. No issues during the rental, the car had some noticeable drive-train knocks and bangs which leads me to suspect a lack of maintenance of these hire vehicles.

"Arrived back at the Goldcar depot Malta airport; the Goldcar agent looked over the car, he questioned me on a small scratch (50mm or so) on the bottom of the passenger side front bumper (the same side where the majority of the existing damage was). I explained that I did not cause this damage and also explained that it was missed during our initial inspection.

"At this point I realise that their attitude to damage on the car is far different when returning a vehicle rather than picking it up. He then starts to fill out paper and quotes a figures of €451.94 total for the repair of the damage.

"At this point I'm speechless and can't believe what I hearing. I refuse to pay and say that it can be dealt with on the deposit hold of my credit car.

"He then asks to see my rental agreement and say's "look your insured don't worry just pay now and you can claim the amount back in full from your booking agent (Car Del Mar)" "it won't cost you a penny". I again question this so he phones the Goldcar Malta desk and they confirmed to him that my rental voucher would cover this.

"With a flight to catch I had no option but to make the payment and be on our way, what a mistake that was. To me this was fraudulent coercion into making a payment for damages I did not cause.

"I immediately contacted Car Del Mar who informed me that I had been told false information and that I was not covered for the damage charge." 

Roy also wrote into A Spokesman Said with his unfortunate brush with Goldcar: "After arriving at Malaga Airport, I was pressurised into taking out an insurance with this company even though I already had insurance with AXA which I purchased the same time when ordering the hired car for my family holiday.

"As you can imagine after standing in a very busy line/had young family members waiting - I felt pressurised into leaving a deposit which I was told refundable on return but found out today when looking at my bank account the deposit is NOT in full.

"I was given a small portion of monies back which does NOT cover the deposit left. Whilst bringing this to your attention I would like to know WHY I was charged Cobertura Super and other additional fees?

"The car was signed off (written proof and pictures taken by myself) that there was NO damage to the vehicle and a FULL tank of petrol, which was requested when the vehicle was returned. I have proof of original emails and the Goldcar receipt/contract. Please advise asap of your intent to help/advise me on what Goldcar is going to do to return MY monies back."

Goldcar's parent company, Europcar, has also been stung by A Spokesman Said customers.

Rita wrote in to tell us: "I am absolutely amazed and horrified by the cowboy-like nature of what I thought was a reputable company.

"When we returned our hired fiesta last Bank holiday to Europcar Putney Bridge at the correct time (10am) we deposited the key in a box.

"But anxious to know that all was well, I returned to Putney Bridge Branch at 4.30pm when I knew someone was on duty.

"He assured me all was well , that he'd received the key etc and I assumed this also mean the car.

"As we'd had no prang or accident or scratch and it was perfect, when we handed it back, I wouldn't have assumed otherwise.

"Then a week later, I discovered Europcar had charged us for damage - a scratch to the wheel hub.

"Even if this were true, which I'm actually wondering since why didn't the man show us it on the Monday, why had nobody attempted to contact us about the damage by email or phone.

"Surely if you are going to charge someone for something, the reason for it needs specifying? The cost to be charged confirming?

"Surely, a company this huge would have a polite policy of informing, even if what they were claiming was true. Why did the rep I returned it to not mention this given he'd now had the car for a full six hours."

We're going to keep fighting for rental car customers here at A Spokesman Said - we've contacted Goldcar and Europcar for comment, we'll be ringing them relentlessly and also raising the issue on Love Sport Radio - a radio station that we proudly sponsor.

Car rental firms have been running mafia-style operations for years and it's about time that stopped. 

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