Car hire comparison sites investigated over hidden charges

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Have you fallen foul of hidden charges or unexpected fines?

Unexpected fees and hidden charges have landed two car hire comparison companies under investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

According to the CMA, customers are being hit with hidden charges and unexpected fees from car hire companies for fuel or late-night pick-ups and drop-offs.

Over the past year the CMA has been working with the sites to ensure customers get clear and accurate prices.

The CMA say that as a result of this, there has been a significant improvement in the accuracy and clarity of information on car rental price comparison websites. For example, most comparison websites now clearly flag young driver surcharges and one-way fees in the prices they quote.

However, some sites have failed to up their game – hence the CMA taking action.

The CMA has published advice to the sector on how to comply with consumer law and issued letters to 40 companies asking them to maintain standards and make improvements to comply with the law.

The websites have been told to:

  • Include all extra charges in the price they first give their customers
  • Clearly set out fuel pricing policies
  • Warning customers about high excess or deposits.

The announcement, made on October 19, builds on the CMA’s work with the European Commission into ‘the big five’ car rental firms in 2015. This resulted in savings of around £100 million for UK customers.

James MacBeth, Project Director at the CMA, said: “For many people hiring a car is an essential component to days out, holidays and trips. No one should be misled or face unexpected charges, whether they choose to book directly with the car hire company or through a comparison site.

“While we have seen improvements in the way car hire comparison sites quote prices, we are still concerned some companies may not have faced up to their legal obligations, and as a result we have opened two enforcement cases.

“We expect this sector to provide clearer information about the true costs, and to explain upfront what customers will actually pay. Businesses must read our advice and make the necessary changes. If companies break the law they risk enforcement action, as these cases show.”

If you’re thinking about renting a car overseas, take a look at gov.co.uk’s advice.

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