You will be charged for repair costs if the car rental company finds new damage to your car after you have rented it. If this is the case, then you are likely to be charged straight after you return the car and the money charged to your credit card used to leave the security deposit.
When disputing damage charges, it is more than often your word against that of the car hire company, and so consumer protection can become confusing and frustrating. However, if you have the correct paperwork as well as photos, then there is a strong chance that you will get your money back.
How do Car Rental Companies Prove Damage?
There are specific codes of conduct that the car rental company must adhere to when receiving car rental complaints, but when you sign the car rental agreement at pick-up, then you agree to pay any repair costs if the damage is caused to the vehicle when you use it.
To prove that damage caused during the period when you were using the vehicle the car rental company will use a check-out form and a check-in form, which show the condition of the car when it is picked up and dropped off by yourself.
There will likely be a diagram of the car on them which will be used by the car rental company to show any damage. If the check-in form shows any new damage to the vehicle rentals, then the driver is legally responsible for the repair costs.
What evidence can I use for my car rental complaint?
You will need to have evidence that the damage incurred during rental did not happen. Specifically, the evidence you will need as part of your car rental complaint will be photos of the car and the necessary paperwork.
The photos must be of the car before and after you used it and if they are on a smartphone, then this will show the date and time of the photo to back up your claim. The paperwork will be the rental agreement as well as the check-in and check-out forms.
Some major car rental companies use what is called a ‘damage matrix’ to show the average cost of repairs for the different types of vehicle rental damage.
Other major car rental companies will get the opinion of an expert over the estimated cost of the repair and will charge you that sum.
How do I dispute damage charges?
If you have a car rental complaint then firstly you need to complain directly to the car hire company. Do this either in writing or verbally and the earlier, the better. The rental company need time to come up with a dispute resolution and to process your complaint; however, if it remains unresolved for a few weeks then there are some other organisations to register your car rental complaint with, one of which is the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS)
Taking your complaint further
The European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) has a free service which helps with consumer protection over car rental complaints. This is also useful if you have used your vehicle as part of a cross border rental in the European Union.
The European Car Rental Conciliation Service will only deal with complaints from what are known as member companies.
These are some of the major car rental companies including Europcar, Hertz, Sixt, and Enterprise.
The European Car Rental Conciliation Service has a list of all the member companies on their website.
It is also important to note that if you are using the ECRCS for consumer protection of car hire, then you must have gone through the company directly rather than through a travel agent. The European Car Rental Conciliation Service will then investigate to see if a car rental company has breached its codes of conduct. These codes of practice cover a lot of factors including billing, vehicle condition, customer information and advertising.
In summary, the ECRCS will handle car rental complaints and get refunds if it rules that the charges were unfair. You can also contact the European Consumer Centres Network, which is another free service that helps deal with car rental complaints. They investigate if car rental companies have broken European contract law.
Making a complaint to the BVRLA
For UK rentals, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), can help you with complaints about its members. The government approves the BVLRA as a consumer alternative dispute resolution body.
For UK car rentals specifically, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) can help you with car rental complaints. Again the list of members in the BVRLA includes large car rental companies like Hertz and also small independent car hire companies.
Like the European Car Rental Conciliation Service, it has codes of conducts and will figure out if one of its members has broken them. The BVRLA state that as part of their consumer protection for car hire, any information requested from the member must be submitted to them within five days. They aim to resolve their complaints within 20 days through the Dispute Resolution Service.
The Dispute Resolution Service will then investigate any breach of the codes of conduct and can only look at matters that are relevant to the activities of BVRLA members.