News item

Car hire complaints from UK consumers rocket in 2010

Complaints about car hire in the EU have rocketed in the first five months of this year, according to the UK European Consumer Centre.

The number of complaints and enquiries from UK consumers about car rentals in the EU shot up by just under 30% in the first five months of 2010 compared to the same period in 2009.

UK consumers are in dispute over car rentals with EU traders from a variety of countries, but some of the countries most frequently complained about include Spain, Italy, France and Ireland.

Jed Mayatt, UK European Consumer Centre (UKECC) Manager, said: 'We knew that complaints about car hire were rising, but when we analysed our database I was really shocked at the scale of the problem.

'Of course, not all car hires end in tears, but consumers really do need to wise up, get their brains into gear and take some basic precautions when they are entering into car rental contracts in the EU.'

The car hire market causes trouble for UK consumers every year, but in 2010 the problem is getting worse – a rise of 29% in the number of complaints and enquiries in the first five months of 2010 compared to the first five months of 2009.

Now the UK ECC has taken action to forewarn UK consumers intending to hire cars abroad – either on holiday or on business – by producing a leaflet outlining consumers’ rights and giving motorists hints and tips to protect themselves. Called ‘What you should know about car hire across the EU’, consumers can download a copy from the UK ECC’s website: www.ukecc.net

Jed said: 'Consumers are often at their most vulnerable during tough economic times and, quite naturally, they often have their guard down and are more trusting when they are on holiday.

'Like any transaction, car hire has risks associated with it, but in the light of these figures showing dramatic increases in complaints about car rental, we would urge consumers to take more care 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.'

A typical example of a car rental complaint would result from when the consumer has to return the rental car at the end of their holiday. If the consumer’s flight is early (or late) and the car rental office is closed, they sometimes leave the car in good faith and return the keys at a drop-off point. Weeks, maybe months, pass and eventually the consumer receives a bill from the car rental firm, charging the consumer for damage done to the car. The consumer, not surprisingly, is totally unaware of this damage and this bill is a total shock – as the consumer left the car in perfect condition. Sometimes the car rental firm will provide photos of the damage (in some cases this photo will have been taken a couple of days after the consumer returned the car).


The UK ECC provides advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK and will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint. Consumers can make contact with the UK European Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 08456 04 05 03 weekdays between 10am and 3pm.

The UK European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 29 centres covering Europe, plus Iceland and Norway. The aim of the network is to provide 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 can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel.

UK ECC is co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), and the European Commission.

The UK ECC service is delivered by the Trading Standards Institute

UK ECC press release originally issued 21 July 2010