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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 14:42 GMT
Customers 'named and shamed' on web
Stelios Haji-Ioannou in front of one of his hire cars
Has easyCar owner Stelios Haji-Ioannou gone too far?
Millionaire entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou has decided to name and shame people who fail to return hire cars on the web.

EasyCar is one of the latest additions to the EasyGroup stable which includes the budget airline EasyJet and a chain of internet cafes.

Customers who fail to return cars within 15 days of their due date are having their photographs, names and details of the car prominently published on the easyCar website.

But some lawyers have warned that the company could be opening itself up to costly lawsuits.

Legal issues

There are currently two pictures and one other named person on the Overdue Cars section of the website.

Mr Haji-Ioannou has always taken a very hands-on approach to his businesses, all of which rely heavily on their web presence. But some lawyers said he may have gone too far.

"It will almost certainly be breaching data protection laws," said Peter Carey, Data Protection Consultant at London law firm Charles Russell.

Users who feel aggrieved at having their details published in this manner could pursue a civil action against easyCar for distress or damage said Mr Carey.

The Information Commission, formerly the Data Protection Commission, could also ask easyGroup to remove the pictures if it thinks it is in breach of the law.

If the wrong pictures are published, then Mr Haji-Ioannou may also face costly libel actions.

A spokesman for easyGroup said the firm was not doing anything wrong.

Lost revenue

"We took legal advice and are satisfied that we are not breaching any law," he said.

"Our terms and conditions state that we will take a photograph when you hire a car and reserve the right to publish that photograph if the car isn't returned on time," he added.

Around 1% of revenue from car hire firms is lost each year from cars that are returned late or not at all.

"To stick your head in the sand and write that off is nonsensical. Why should 99% of customers subsidise the minority?" asked the easyCar spokesman.

Mr Haji-Ioannou's easyGroup is also currently embroiled in a legal fight with unrelated Easyart.com.

The firm wants easyart to hand over its domain name because it claims customers are confused and it is putting its own brand and business under threat.

See also:

26 Sep 02 | Entertainment
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17 Jun 02 | Business
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