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Have your say: Car hire deposits

cars lined up
Hiring a car can be an expensive business

What happens if you return the vehicle as promised and no money is refunded? Money Box has been speaking to two listeners who struggled to get their deposits back when they hired a car.

Have you struggled to get a car deposit back?

Have you been asked to pay a deposit you were not expecting when picking up a car?

Should firms ask you to pay a deposit and then refund them, or just reserve the deposit on your debit or credit card?

Do you prefer to hire from a big chain, local garages or by searching for the cheapest deals online?



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In the article the Director of the firm is quoted as saying "It's in the terms and conditions, obviously they're aware of it before they book."

That's laughable.

Gordon, Peebles

I originally hired the car for six day and paid the £160 up front. The car was delivered - not the car I was expecting, but whatever(!)

After a change in my circumstances, I found I only needed the car for three days, so I phoned Avis to arrange to have the car ''off-hired'' and collected. I was told that the insurance would stop within half an hour of my phone call, and the car would be collected the next day by Avis staff and a refund would be paid into my account for the days I ''off-hired''.

The car was not collected the next day, or the day after that. They did finally collect the car, but no refund was made for several weeks. I emailed Avis several times to no avail, until I made a threat of legal action. I was then told that because I had paid up front, and not at the end of the hire, no refund could be made to me....

It took me only one more email saying ''the verbal contract I got on the phone that a refund would be made superseded the terms and conditions that I had agreed to when purchasing the car. They gave me a minimal refund.

People should be aware of the sneaky tactics these companies use. And also that you can get around them. I did, and the majority of people would be able to get more out of them than I managed to!!!

Thomas, Market Drayton

In August 2011, Jaguar Warranty arranged a "free" hire car through Enterprise Rent-a-Car whilst mine was repaired. I was required to give my own credit card details in case of any excess costs. That was in the sum of £50 which was taken immediately I collected the car but, for some reason, only £48.94 was returned . I also opted to pay a daily waver against a potential £500 damage excess. I had the car for only two days but was charged for four days.

I contacted the local branch to point this out in September when I received my credit card statement and was promised this would be sorted out. Two statements later, nothing has been received. The amount is small - less than £16.00 - but the principle is huge as is the profit to Enterprise if others are being treated in the same way. I last spoke to them by 'phone on Thursday and was promised a reply by yesterday but have heard nothing. I intend to call at their office this morning and will let you know what they say.

Austin, St Helens

I prepaid for 4 days car hire in Italy with Carhire 3000, part of Traveljigsaw. I also took out their collision excess insurance.

When in Italy I lost my wallet, complete with driving license and credit cards. I phoned the company and they transferred the booking to my wife's name because of the lack of my driving licence. However they refused to accept my wife's debit card for security, referring to their terms and conditions that a credit card must be provided. I suggested getting an emergency credit card overnight but the company said that if the car wasn't collected at the booked time then the reservation lapsed and I would not be able to pick up the car at all.

I hired a car from another company that blocked security funds through my wife's debit card without a problem and released the block on our return.

When I asked for a refund on my return to the UK Carhire 3000 only agreed to refund one day out of the four I had paid for and no insurance refund.

It seems unreasonable that, due to unfortunate circumstances, I could not meet their conditions but they refused to hold the car available for when I could meet their conditions, even though it was fully paid for. Therefore I think their cancellation/refund policy is an unfair condition of contract.

I have exchanged several emails with Carhire 3000 without success.

Mike, Chesterfield

On a recent visit to Tenerife when picking up the car I paid for a full tank of fuel on my credit card. As the rental was for three days only, the agreement said that on return of the car they would be refunded back to my card the amount due for unused fuel.I returned the car on Friday 4th November and as yet have had no refund.I estimate the amount they owe me to be approximately 51 Euros. The rental company is Goldcar which is one of the bigger companies in Spain and the Canaries.

Robert, Coventry

Further to my previous email and visit to Enterprise Rent-a-Car this morning, I'm pleased to let you know they paid me out without quibble when face to face! They blamed their computer and discrepancies over recorded pickup and collection times.

Austin, St Helens

Had an accident in July last. My insurance company arranged a courtesy car via Ai Solutions from Avis. We put down £50 cash deposit on the spot when the car was delivered, agreed in advance, returnable when when our own car was returned. When the hire car was collected without issues, we were told the deposit would be retuned within 10 working days. It took a month of hassle and a final intervention from my insurance company which got the deposit back inside a day.

John, London

Taking a deposit can have other problems when using different currencies. We were asked for a deposit, rather than a block on our card, in South Africa recently. But with exchange rates changing daily we refused as the deposit was designated in Rand, but the amount would be taken, and refunded, from our sterling account - so the amount would not necessarily be the same 3 weeks later. We went to another company who just blocked an amount on our card and then released it immediately we returned the car in good condition.

Carolyn, France

I rented a car from Travel Jigsaw in March for a special wedding anniversary celebration in Barcelona.

Not only did TravelJigsaw take more than 4 months to refund my deposit(s). The agent they use in Barcelona (Gold Car) took an additional deposit because we had a puncture. We lost a day of our weekend trying to sort out the paperwork, go back to the airport to collect a different car because they took the car away from the hotel car park (where we were staying). They charged us £200 to repair the puncture!

What might appear a 'cheap' deal was extremely expensive and stressful because of the constant pressure I had to put on the company to 'do the right thing'.

There is no escalation process for this industry, and I could not say more strongly that Gold Car in Barcelona, and Travel Jigsaw are companies I would never use again.

We lost about £200 in total, were offered no compensation and just a few words of apology (in the end!)

Rhona, Uxbridge

It isn't just the smaller car-hire firms whose behaviour may border on sharp practice. Eighteen months ago I hired a car from Avis for a few days in France. The booking was made online before my holiday began. All went well, and I returned the car with a full tank of petrol as required. I was therefore dismayed to see a month or two later a £25 charge for fuel on my credit card bill. I telephoned Avis, explaining that a mistake had been made and that I had retained the French petrol station receipt which was dated and timed. Avis agreed to refund my money. A month passed with no refund. I phoned again, then wrote to Avis's customer complaints department. Eventually the money was refunded. BUT a month later Avis charged me again. I wrote another letter, but this time received no response. I usually don't roll over in these situations, but in the end I gave up, resolving never to use Avis again.

RJ, Tunbridge Wells

Budget Rental (one of the big ones!) also charge an outrageous deposit of £800 + £100 for petrol! I was horrified at Stansted airport when I rented a car for one day to visit my sister that my credit card was charged £900 and was told it would be refunded within 10 days. I have been unable to check if this has been refunded as my credit card statements only come in once a month and it hasn't arrived there a way to check these statements online? There is no mention of this when you book online. I will never use budget again!

Jill, Italy

Our visitors from Hungary last July hired a car from car hire UK and still have not had their deposit back, despite many e-mails and phone calls, just like the people in your programme. They are now writing a formal letter to say they will take legal action.

Judy, Bristol

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