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Cleaning The Car Hire Industry

Feb 27, 2008
It seems as if recently the car hire industry has cleaned up its practises somewhat. For many years there have been unscrupulous companies who have angered customers through the use of small print in rental agreements. By 2006 this got so bad that the government stepped in and threatened to clean up the car hire industry with the use of heavy regulations and industry guidelines.

This formed part of a European action plan for the car hire industry; MEPs began talks to simplify the process of using car hire services. Reduced amounts of paperwork and transparency of contractual agreements was the order of the day. MEPs were eager to reduce hidden costs and ensure customers received the best service possible. Thankfully those in the car hire industry have rapidly taken the suggestions on board to maintain a reputation of honest business operations.

The reasons MPs have become embroiled in the situation is due to the constant letters of complaint that arrive on their desks from constituents. Members of the public voice their complaints about small print, clauses put in place to catch customers unawares and extortionate charges. In this case the politicians are performing their task adequately and have raised these issues at the pan-European level.

The reason that regulation needs to be carried out at a continental level is due to the nature of car hire. Being so closely related to the tourism industry, it is less the big international car hire firms but more the local cowboys who are happy to rip off tourists for a quick buck. By creating a standard from for those leasing a car, a state of uniformity could be created.

It is not only the contracts that should be studied, it is believed that a number of hire cars in Europe are totally unsafe and in many cases illegal. Again, this is not the multinational car hire companies as they have their own safety procedures to follow. One report that looked into a local firm's fleet found bent wheels, low tyre pressures and brake fluid at dangerously low levels.

Extortionate charges were something that came up regularly in the talks. One MEP raised the case of a constituent who after coming back from holiday found that a car hire firm had charged her over five hundred pounds to fix a broken clutch that malfunctioned twenty minutes after leaving the company premises. This case was surely illegal but the nature of the contract in fact put the company in the right.

The issue of damage disputes is something that has trouble the car hire industry greatly. Liability for such minor events as chips on the windscreen and small scratches can in many cases drive costs up. Naturally the car hire firms want to protect their fleets but this should not be at the expense of the customer. As a trade that is so closely tied with the tourist industry, the potential for national revenues to suffer is strikingly acute.

The reason a uniform set of contracts is needed also is due to the various languages present in the European Union. It is believed that one misprint in the Canary Islands led to a damage excess being 480,000 euros instead of the rather more respectable 480. It is events such as this that have led to calls for the uniform set of contracts.

The bigger well known car hire companies have been extremely helpful in the task and are aiming to keep their worldwide reputation at a decent level. MEPs have in fact stated that they do not want to have to legislate the industry, they would prefer the industry to clean up after itself.

In many respects the larger players in the trade have answered this call and made steps towards uniform contracts within their own companies. It is further reason to use bigger firms instead of the local firms that may result in emptying your wallet.
About the Author
Industry expert Thomas Pretty looks at the EU investigation into business practices in the car hire industry. To find out more please visit http://www.budget.co.uk/
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