How a Big Name in the Car Rental Industry Treated Its Customers

Pisa International Airport Galileo Galilei, Italy

An article in the UK’s Telegraph Travel Advice really says it all. A British couple we refer to as Mrs. A and Mr. B flew to Italy on holiday and collected a rental car at Pisa Airport. They opted for the rental company’s ’zero excess package’, paying £300 for the privilege of eliminating all deductible amounts.

All was good until Mr. B pulled out from a parking space one rainy day. A local drove around the corner and collided with them while chatting on their phone. Said driver apologized, and kindly completed the rental company report for them, since it was in Italian, which Mrs. A and Mr. B did not understand.

They rental company subsequently confirmed there was no excess payable, and provided an alternative vehicle. All was good until they returned to Britain two weeks later, and discovered the rental company had billed them an additional £2,541 on their credit card. When they phoned Italy to query this, the call center told them the police report said Mr. B had breached the Highway Code.

After the rental company failed to provide a copy of the police report, the card company reversed the £2,541. Six months later, a letter of demand arrived in their postbox. A debt collection agency had upped the ante to £2,850, presumably to compensate them for their trouble. Mrs. A and Mr. B appealed to the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) for help.

The ECRCS determined Mr. B had been making a U-turn across a continuous white at the time of impact, something he and Mrs. A deny. The ‘evidence’ for the claim included the repair invoice, a screenshot of the road and the police report.

The rental company’s justification for not honoring the waiver was Mr. B was “completely responsible for the damage caused” to the vehicle because the accident was the result of him violating traffic laws. Mrs. A and Mr. B were on the back foot because they were unable to prove their version, and the rental agreement gave the rental company the final say. However the company did reduce the deductible to £1,150 out of ‘goodwill’ or so they said.

Now if Mrs. A and Mr. B had been residents of the U.S. and had taken Bonzah’s primary collision damage insurance instead, they would not have been in the trap they found themselves in Italy. The burden would have been on the insurer to prove the case against them. Moreover, there was insufficient evidence for them to do so.

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Pisa International Airport Galileo Galilei, Italy: ‘DV’BY CC 3.0