In October 2016, I had a problem with a car rental company at Manchester Airport, England.
Now I rent a car several times a year and have done so for decades, but this was the first time I really had a problem with a car rental company.
When my wife and I returned the car, the checker would not close the agreement because of the scratches you can see in the above image on the rear left corner of the car where the dust has been wiped off.
We were subsequently billed £449.00 for the damage.
Yes, you read that correctly: four hundred and forty-nine pounds sterling. I once bought a car for that amount.
No invoice was sent. No justification for the amount was given. The amount was just charged.
I had seen the scratches on the car when we took possession of it at the beginning of the rental, but had deemed them so small as not to be worth reporting. A splash of dried mud also disguised them when I checked the car.
I was in any case absolutely sure that we had not caused them.
What to do in a situation like that?
Well, you can talk to the car rental company, of course.
I should say at this point that research on the internet revealed that this was standard practice for this particular company. I found a number of reviews where clients had been charged astronomical amounts for so-called damages by this same company, in England and elsewhere.
Naturally, they didn’t budge. My fault for not informing them of the damage to begin with.
The next thing you can do if your rental is in England is complain to the BVRLA (bvrla.co.uk), the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association by writing to email@example.com. Other such associations exist on the continent and elsewhere, I imagine.
This was a disappointing experience as the gentleman I had contact with upheld the rental company in every particular.
The thing that really got me was that I was billed for damages without any proof that the repairs had been carried out or that the costs were real.
The gentleman at the BVLA informed me that there is no legal obligation for the rental company to repair the car.
Which is a bit like a licence to print money.
You charge the client as much as you like for damages that you never repair because the damages are so slight that you can continue renting out the car and who knows, maybe bill more clients for the same damages.
After all, would you bother to repair the damage to the car above?
Of course, you wouldn’t.
You wouldn’t even if it was your own car, the scratches are so insignificant. You might retouch with a little pot of paint but certainly no more than that.
And that got me to thinking.
I’d been charged for repairs that hadn’t been done.
And here we come to the real reason for this post.
What about opposing the charges with the credit card company, I thought?
In theory, a credit card transaction requires a service or a product transaction. I reasoned that as no product or service had been performed for this sum that I might be able to get the money back.
My credit card was credited with the amount and the car rental company was given forty-five days to justify the billing.
They never replied.
So I got my money back.
Now I do not guarantee that this will work for you or 100% of the time, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you run into similar problems.
And I thought it was worth sharing….
May your life never become an endurance test!