Five major car rental companies have agreed to significantly review how they treat consumers thanks to a joint action from the European Commission and national enforcement authorities.
Citizens will benefit from more clarity on insurance policies and tank refuelling options, more fairness when handling damages, and more price transparency.
Complaints related to car rentals received by the European Consumer Centres have increased sharply in the last two years.
Věra Jourová, EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality, welcomed today’s agreement: “Booking a car online, renting it in one country and returning it in another is very simple today.
“Unfortunately, car rental terms and conditions are sometimes too vague or lack clarity.
“Consumers are too often left with unplanned extra costs.
“Five major car rental companies have now pledged to improve their information policies and make their terms and conditions fairer for consumers.
“I welcome their commitment and the excellent work done by the national consumer authorities in ensuring a better deal for European consumers.”
The companies - Avis-Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt - have pledged to better align current car rental practices to the requirements of consumer legislation, set out by EU rules on consumer rights, unfair commercial practices and unfair terms.
Some of the main improvements pledged include:
- Improved transparency when booking online.
- Clearer information about all mandatory charges and optional extras.
- Clearer information about key rental terms and requirements, including deposits charged on the consumer’s card.
- Better information at the booking stage about optional waiver and insurance products, including their prices, exclusions and applicable excesses.
- Improved and more transparent fuel policies.
- Clearer and fairer vehicle inspection processes
- Improved practices for taking additional charges from customers: consumers are given a reasonable opportunity to challenge any damage before any payment is taken.
The proposals are gradually being implemented by the companies and most of them should be completed by the end of 2015.
The decision to act was taken following a steady increase of consumer complaints on car rental services booked in another country - from about 1,050 cases in 2012 to more than 1,750 in 2014 - as reported by European Consumer Centres.
Improving consumer information and confidence in the car rental sector could contribute to an annual growth rate of three to four per cent of the car rental sector over the next two years in Europe, argues the EU.
In 2013, there were over 21 million individual rental contracts in the EU.