An unexpected car hire charge has been taken from my card
Car hire fees are common, but if an unexpected charge is unfounded you do have the right to dispute it and may be able to claim your money back.
Common car hire charges
Deductions are often made for fuel, damage to windscreens, tyres, roofs and undercarriage, as well as for returning the car to a different depot from where you picked it up.
These can be lawfully made, as long as they're clearly set out in the contract.
Another common term which allows the car company to debit money from your card is if the car is returned out of hours.
You'll be liable for any damage caused between dropping it off and the opening of the car hire office the following morning.
If you're charged for this, the company should provide details of all the damage caused.
If you do have to leave the car out of hours, take photos or video to show the condition of the car when you left it at the depot and to show that it's been left in a safe place.
Excess charges and deposits
Some companies will take details of the card from which the excess will be paid, but won’t actually take the excess as a deposit.
Other companies will require you to leave a deposit equal to the excess before you can take the car. You should check the small print carefully to see if this is the case because it can be a significant amount.
It's worth noting that some car hire contracts state you must pay the excess for each item of damage the car has incurred. Check the terms and conditions so you can choose a company that doesn't do this.
Which? thinks this is potentially unfair as the sum being charged per item may not be a genuine estimate of the company's loss and could be challenged under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999.
Disputing the money taken
If you think money has been unfairly taken from your card, contact your car hire company and tell it the money has been taken 'under protest'.
If the company refuses to repay the money, you can make a claim against your credit card company under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
If you paid by debit card, you may be able to use the chargeback system where your provider can reverse the payment made to the car hire company.
Improving the dispute process
In July 2015, following a review by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), five of the main car rental companies committed to implementing a series of improvements by the end of the year.
One of the most important improvements is the introduction of greater transparency, particularly in relation to charges.
If you are required to pay any additional charges, for example for damage, you should be notified and, if you wish to dispute the charge, you will be able to do so more easily.
The commitment to improvements does not mean, however, that a new, regulated dispute process is being introduced for all rental car companies, so you should check with the company you are using or intend to use for the full details of their own policy.
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