Car hire sites to provide full costs upfront
Following enforcement action by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) three car hire websites will now be clearer and more transparent about the charges customers have to pay.
An online travel agent, P&P Associates Ltd, and 2 operators of price comparison sites, Affordable Car Hire Ltd and Flexiblecarhire.com Ltd, have committed, under legally binding agreements, to include all compulsory charges in their car hire quotes.
This means their initial quotes must include mandatory charges like fuel surcharges, young driver fees and out-of-hours pick up charges, where applicable. They must also show all essential information including the amounts of any deposits and insurance excesses, policy on fuel charges, and what exactly the insurance covers.
All three businesses cooperated fuly with the CMA’s action, which was launched after an investigation into whether certain sites were complying with consumer protection law. As a result, they have put in place arrangements to check the prices given by their car rental suppliers are fully inclusive going forwards.
The CMA’s enforcement work was launched as a result of its industry-wide review of price comparison sites offering car rental, which found many were advertising very low prices to customers by not including all costs.
This left people paying more than expected at the check-out, and not having the full information required under consumer protection law about what they were paying for.
The CMA, therefore, worked with companies across the sector, resulting in significant improvements in the accuracy and clarity of information available to customers.
A year on, 30 leading websites now carry transparent prices for over 1,300 car companies in over 10,000 destinations, which means UK customers can be more confident they will not be hit by hidden charges and unexpected fees.
UK customers can now be more confident that what they see is what they will pay. The CMA is also launching its first direct action against car hire companies based outside the UK. Following extensive complaints from people encountering hidden costs on collection of their car at the airport abroad, the CMA is now taking enforcement action against businesses based overseas but selling directly to UK customers online.
The types of problem UK consumers reported experiencing included hidden charges for fuel, surprisingly high excess amounts and hidden insurance costs. Just because a business is not on UK soil doesn’t mean the law doesn’t apply when it sells in the UK.
The CMA has also published advice for businesses that sell car rental to help them comply with consumer law, as well as advice for consumers on what to watch out for when renting a car.
[Source: CMA, 29 March 2018]