We’re investigating problems with car hire. Have you got a story to share? Our guest Nick Trend of the Telegraph explains more.
This is a guest post by Nick Trend. All views expressed are Nick’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Choice–in theory–is the consumer’s friend. It means that not only should we have a much better chance of finding something which suits our needs, but in the competition to win our custom products should improve, services get better, prices drop.
That’s the theory. But that is not necessarily what happens in practice. In fact, in some areas there is now so much choice available that, instead of focussing on better consumer service, some companies have resorted to a different tactic.
They deliberately create confusion and make it much harder for the consumer to compare products and services. In particular they focus on manipulating prices – generating, for example, ludicrously cheap headline rates only to find other, less transparent ways of recouping revenue further down the line.
Too good to be true?
And nowhere in travel – the area I report on – has confusing, misleading pricing become more of an issue than in car rental. A hire car for £1 a day? We’ve all seen the ads.
A moment’s thought would tell us that such a deal too good to be true. But many people are sucked in, and they end up paying a very different price once a raft of expensive extras have been added, or imposed on them at the pick up point.
In fact, what should be a straightforward process of hiring a car while on holiday has become a bear pit of disreputable sales techniques. I’ve seen more complaints from Telegraph readers about misleading prices, aggressive sales, appalling customer service and rampant overcharging in this industry than in any other.
The Telegraph has been reporting on the issue for years. We have exposed for example, Europcar for systemically inflating the cost of repairs through secret rebates with suppliers when billing customers for accidental damage to their hire cars.
Finding an effective solution
But the situation so complex – there are so many companies operating in so many jurisdictions advertising car hire in so many ways – that finding an effective solution has proved extremely challenging.
That’s why we have teamed up with the Consumers’ Association – where I first learned my trade as a journalist 30 years ago.
Which? Travel also has a strong record in exposing malpractice in the car hire industry and by pooling our investigative resources, we think we have a much better chance of reforming an industry that has lost the confidence of many of its customers.
This was a guest post by Nick Trend of The Telegraph. All views expressed were Nick’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
If you’ve been hit with car hire problems, discuss it with us in the comments below.