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Being screwed over by a car hire company for damage I didn't cause

2543 Views 23 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  philo

A large and well known car hire company is currently trying to extract a large sum of money from me, for damage that was not even caused by me.

Does anybody have any estimates how much the below damage would cost to repair? It basically requires some paint, as it's gone down to the undercoat in some areas. and there's a tiny dent. I know it's hard to tell from the photo, but some idea would be useful.

Despite ordering a VW Golf or equivalent, I was downgraded to a Citroen Berlingo van. I walked around the vehicle to inspect it when I picked it up, but a passenger had opened the sliding rear door at this point. Guess where the damage was? On the rear wheel arch, obscured by the sliding door. It's not even all that visible unless you are up really close.

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did you do a full visual inspection with them, jot down any damage and sign? thats the only leg you have to stand on my man.
Hi, no, I didn't. Damage wasn't even mentioned when I picked the vehicle up, and I didn't sign or in any other way authorise the damage list.

No one came out with me to the vehicle to walk around it like has been like has been the case with all my other rentals. The damage was well hidden by the sliding door.
Yeah, I've been in correspondence with the head office for some time. A month after the rental they sent me a letter asking for an "accident damage report". I told them that I had not been in an accident, that the damage was pre-existing, and therefore I couldn't give them one.

They didn't bother to respond to my denials that the damage was caused by me. They also didn't bother to respond about my numerous complaints about things like downgrading my vehicle. Instead, a month later they just sent me this massive invoice which I suspect has been inflated 5 to 10x.

Their refusal to respond to letters and willingness to just send out massive invoices suggests to me that they're trying their luck and sending out invoices to people that they know didn't do it and hoping that they'll just pay up to make it go away.

As far as I can see the only way you can have this kind of scrape is a parking accident in a car park at 1 or 2 mph. But I did no city driving, I drove direct from the airport to the auobahn (about 1/2 mile), went 40 miles down the autobahn and then parked 1/2 mile from the autobahn in a rural area in a forest. The car was only in my possession for about 8 hours.
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Do they not have any paperwork to say you were there when you picked up the car and both parties signed it?

Unless they can prove you did it......going to be hard for them to get out.

Innocent until proven guilty.
There was no paperwork no. All I had to do was sign the electronic device on the desk - much like the thing that couriers tend to give you nowadays to sign for a parcel. There was certainly nothing about any damage that I had to sign for or otherwise authorise.

The more I think about this the more I think that this is set up to bamboozle customers. I must have hired at least 20-30 vehicles, everything from Corsas to 3.5 ton Lutons from other companies, and have never had the slightest problem before. All other times I've walked around the vehicle with the representative of the hire company and marked on a piece of paper where the damage was.

If you do a google search for "<car hire company name> scam" you get a rather shocking number of reports of fairly similar complaints about the company, enough to suggest that they try to pull this off on a regular basis.

The repair bill for the above scrape, they claim, is just a few euros short of 1500 EUR. I think that they're taking the piss.
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Very odd - as you mentioned, an employee usually accompanies you out and shows you around the car before the hire. The same usually applies upon return of the vehicle - I'd definitely fight it.
Anything in their terms and conditions about damage reports?
Siorry but your diagnosis is correct - you are screwed!

This is a classic case of hirer beware. Whenever I rent any vehicle I always take time to go round the vehicle before I leave and get them to record every minor scratch/and dent. If its night time/ or too dark then demand they provide you with a flashlight to check the car fully. Its a real chore, but if you don't, then you are laying yourself open to this sort of scam.

Sadly most hire car firms have pretty bulletproof written T&Cs which mean that it is up to you to check and ensure that any identified faults are marked on the vehicle paperwork when you pick the vehicle up. Hence I see no way you can avoid this claim. I guess its way too late to ask if they have any CCTV footage of the vehicle when it was returned to them by the previous renter of the vehicle?
As above. You need to go through paperwork that you have and have the mindset that you are them, trying to screw you. When I hired an E-class in September, the rep checked it with me AND said that as it was raining, if I noticed any damage within 24 hrs, let them know. There were no problems. So, no help to you, but thumbs up for europcar Cambridge.
no damage or collision waiver at all,? i think id be inclinded to to ask them to prove the damage was there when you returned the car.if they cant you could argue it had been done after the vehicle had been returned. good luck tho
id have them done for making you drive a citreon berlingo [negative], good luck with it all though mate.

Your supposed to inspect the vehicle with company representative. They pick out any damage and you sign a form showing it. If you did not sign anything how can they claim you did it. That's the whole point of signing in first place.
Just by looking at the damage i'd say it just needed that 1 panel sanded, filled and sprayed, generally a good price is £100 a panel so...

Best of luck with this, it's bollocks that they're trying to screw you over for something like this.
Sorry to bring up an old thread, but I thought I'd update on this, nearly a year late! I didn't want to put too much information in the public domain at the time, but I appreciate the comments.

So yes, I hired the car from Europcar (good guess!). I had a disagreement with the check in people when I returned the car due to the above damage, which I fully disputed. Europcar then sent me an invoice for EUR 0.00 saying something like "nothing further payable."

After that they sent a first letter demanding around 1000 EUR which included replacing the bumper - you can see it's not damaged in the slightest! I told them to bugger off - they then sent a second letter, again demanding around 1000 EUR. I sent them a scan of the invoice showing 0.00 EUR payable, again telling them to bugger off, including numerous complains about the hire. Trying to claim for a new bumper is simply fraudulent.

I've heard nothing since.

So, lessons are:

a) Be very very very very careful when renting a car - even when you thought you were careful.

b) Never hire from Europcar

c) Dispute the damage, take photographic evidence (I did) and use their crapness against them

I've had some great hires from Hertz in the mean time from the same airport (Berlin Schoenefeld) - including getting upgraded from an Opel Meriva at an already dirt cheap price for a 4 day hire to an InfinIti FX (luxury Nissan 4x4 - complete chelsea tractor, but great for cruising on the autobahn) for only 10 EUR :) The Opels are really under powered and really drink petrol at about 90mph on the autobahn.
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Glad they off your back now mate!
Glad that it was all sorted. However, I've always had a very professional service from Europcar, so it's down to a bit of bad luck with one office maybe. I've hired cars around the world for over 25 years and haven't had a problem anywhere with service from any company.

Glad you got this one resolved OK. Certainly I have not had problems with Europcar but I have been dilligent to pre-check and record even the most minor scuffs prior to accepting the vehicle. If for some reason you get the impression the clerk is hassling you then take even greater care as they may want to stick you with the bill for damage they know about.
Sadly the reality is you can return a hire car OK, and be in the process of handing over the keys etc meantime some other punter is playing dodgems in the car park and if you have not got the vehicle inspected and paperwork clearly signed off " no new damage" then you are at risk. This particularly applies at "night drop" locations where there is no one present to hand the keys to. In which case its only sensible to spend a few minutes to take digital photos of the car in the parking lot before posting the keys.
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