Dodgy dealings in car rental contracts


CHOICE uncovers the truth behind the asterisks

A CHOICE review of car rental contracts reveals consumers are being stung by indecipherable terms, dubious clauses and disproportionately high fees.

The report finds that standard excesses in contracts can be unduly high and reducing them through an excess reduction policy adds up to $40 per day to a car renter’s bill.

Other issues include rental companies charging for not-at-fault accidents regardless of whether the other driver is located. This means the company can potentially make a profit from the accident as their costs would already be covered by third party car insurance.

“Consumers should be aware of insurance exclusions. We found a number of companies charging up to $2,200 on top of existing excesses for single vehicle accidents,” says CHOICE Spokesperson, Ingrid Just.

“Other companies only conditionally cover collisions with animals or those incurred whilst reversing,” says Ingrid.

Fees for everything from e-tag hire to premium location surcharges also leave consumers spending more than they expect.

“Paying an extra 22% on the total cost per rental simply because you pick up your car at an airport is ludicrous as is being charged for an e-tag even if you don’t use it on a toll road,” says Ingrid.

The CHOICE report also discovered one car rental company charging a 9.95% administration fee on the total cost of rental. The same company makes customers sign contracts that allow them to hire a car that is not fit for purpose.

“This clause may contravene Australian Consumer Law - CHOICE is referring the matter to the ACCC for further investigation,” says Ingrid.

To avoid being stung by dodgy car rental contracts CHOICE advises:

  • Read contract terms and conditions carefully before signing
  • Photographing your car rental vehicle at the beginning and end of hire
  • Returning your car during opening hours and insisting on an immediate inspection
  • Familiarise yourself with hidden fees and charges by doing a dummy run through the company’s online booking system
  • Fill up the vehicle as close as possible to the drop off point and keep the receipt to avoid a refueling fee

For specific information about the rental car companies investigated by CHOICE go to www.choice.com.au/rentalcars.

Media Contact:

  • Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Spokesperson: 0430 172 669

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