Car rental - Branch closed when should be open

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Based on resolver’s experience to date, it is always best to return a hire car during office hours if at all possible. That way, a member of staff can check the car over with you and you can agree that no damage has been done during your rental period. If the depot is closed on your return, you should leave the vehicle in the designated area and take photographs of every aspect of the car, including the wheels (a common claim from hire companies) to prove that there is no damage to the car. Note or photograph the mileage and the petrol gauge in case you need to provide supporting evidence in future. Keep checking your credit card statements over the next few months for any charges against you for damage to the car. It might be wise to telephone the depot where you returned your car to in order to check that the had no issues with the vehicle.

If this does happen and you don’t agree with the claim, resolver recommends that you contact the rental company, for an explanation and, if appropriate, a refund. You should do this in writing to the customer services department of the rental company, and give them as many details of your problem as possible. Further, you should include copies of any information you have (e.g. photos) which will refute their claim as to damage or mileage.

If you are unhappy with the company’s response, resolver recommends that you contact one of the bodies that deal with car rental disputes. If you booked your car direct with a hire company, the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) provides a free service to deal with Europe-wide disputes. There is also the European Consumer Centres Network which will investigate any breaches of European contract law free of charge. For UK rentals, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) provides free assistance with complaints about companies which adhere to its own code of conduct. resolver recommends that you submit your concern in writing to any of these organisations (see their websites for contact details) and resolver can assist you in submitting, recording and reminding you when and who to escalate to.

Further, if the car hire branch is closed when its opening hours say it should be open you should make a complaint to the customer services department of your rental company. This should be done in writing, and may result in an apology or nominal compensation. As a minimum, it should prevent the same thing happening to anyone else!

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You should know

Car rental companies have to give clear terms and conditions, transparent pricing info, and a full explanation of their liability and waiver cover. In fact, all charges should be made clear to you upfront.

You should always take a full inventory and get the car hire company to sign off on everything – even if the company tells you it isn’t necessary.

If you decide to take out extra cover, it’s best to make sure that the cover is in the same name as the lead driver. This could avoid a number of potential pitfalls in the future.

Car hire companies should invoice you for any charges incurred. In some cases, they may debit money directly from your account – they should make efforts to notify you beforehand.

If you do have to dispute a charge, you should always try to do it within 14 days.

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