Car hire advice from UK ECC

Car hire complaints on the increase

Complaints and enquiries about car hire in the EU rose by almost 30% in the year to the end of June 2017. This is according to the UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC).

There were 629 complaints and enquiries compared to 486 the year before. This is an increase of 29.4%.


Top three complaints

The top three causes for complaint from UK consumers hiring cars in the EU are (in no particular order):

  • Post-hire damage charges, especially after unsupervised drop-offs
  • Disputes related to insurance – unrequested, overpriced or excess waiver
  • Fuel policies – return the car empty, but charged for a full tank


A typical complaint is a bill for damage months after the consumer had returned home.

UK European Consumer Centre (UK ECC) Director, Andy Allen, said:


“Like any transaction, car hire has risks associated with it, but in the light of these figures showing increases in complaints about car rental, we would urge consumers to be aware of some of the problems they could face and to take steps to make the whole process go as smoothly as possible.

“Our general advice to consumers hiring cars abroad is, where possible, to return the car to someone in the office, get them to check the car and sign it off as in good condition.

“If you have to leave the car, take some photos – showing that it was returned in good condition.”

Lack of EU legislation

There is no specific EU legislation related to car hire. But, as a consumer shopping in the European Union, UK consumers have certain rights.

These ‘basic consumer principles’ include:

  • buy what you want where you want; if it doesn’t work, send it back
  • contracts should be fair to consumers; you should not be misled
  • effective redress for cross-border disputes


Who is responsible for any problems?

If the car hire is booked via a franchise, the contract paperwork will show who the actual contract is with. The booking agent handles the booking. It may not be responsible for the car itself.

If the consumer has a problem they should check the contract for the company providing the service.

“It is the people you hire the car from who are responsible for the charges made and with the actual provision of the service, so if there are any problems or arguments then the consumer needs to go back to them.”


Car hire insurance

Rental companies must provide third party liability insurance for bodily injury (TP) and property damage (CDW).

The BVRLA (British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association) and ECRCS (European Car Rental Conciliation Service) Codes state that all mandatory cover (CDW and TP with an excess) must be included in the advertised “drive away” price.

There can be more comprehensive insurance available at the rental desk. Although the consumer can use their own, alternative insurance.

If no cover is in place the rental company may need a security deposit.

“Customers may buy an additional waiver from the rental company to reduce or eliminate their excess, or can buy an insurance policy from a third party that will reimburse any excess. This is purely optional.”

This insurance cover is usually subject to an excess, for which the hirer will be responsible. The consumer is liable for any damage to the car during their hire period.

Consumer car hire advice

For more car hire confidence, follow the UK ECC’s car rental ‘hints and tips’:

Car hire tips from UK ECC

It’s also worth remembering

When buying goods costing more than £100 and less than £30,000 to use a credit card, as section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 may place equal liability with the seller on the credit card company.


  • A ‘contract’ may be breached if the car hire company does not do what its terms and conditions say.
  • A car rental company must follow the code of conduct of any trade association it belongs to (check what membership applies before you sign).
  • Under the EU Services Directive 2009, your place of residence/nationality should not affect the price you pay.
  • Check terms and conditions before booking your hire car – that way you’ll know who has the right to charge you for the car rental.


Car hire should be about the open road and not unexpected bills

The UK European Consumer Centre

The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 30 centres in the EU, plus Iceland and Norway.

The network provides advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK. The Network will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.

UK ECC provides advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel.

Consumers can contact the UK European Consumer Centre via its website or by phone on 01268 886690 weekdays between 9am and 5pm.