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Car Hire Refund?

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 31 Aug 2020 | comments*Discuss
Car Hire Distance Selling Regulations


I booked flights to Brest airport in France and booked cheap car hire through a French car hire company. It was a good deal and I purchased the insurance package online and received an email stating the amount to pay on collection of the car 174 euros or thereabouts.

We travelled from 3am and arrived at 10am in France to collect the car, with our two young children, who were by this point restless. My husband went to car hire desk to collect the car at the designated agent (it was a partner company). The woman on the desk did not have good english and my husband doesn't speak french but she kept talking on and eventually asked my husband to sign for the car and proceeded to charge us 330 euros.

My husband couldn't understand why and she didn't understand so we were too tired and had a further hour and a half drive away, so we decided to take the car and contact the company.

I emailed from my phone and have had no refund. Where do I stand?

(Mrs Lisa Lawton, 23 September 2008)


Hiring a car in Europe on the Internet from home comes, in part, under what’s known as the Distance Selling Regulations, which essentially offer consumers much the same protection across the EU. That 'in part' is important, though, because not all the regulations apply with car hire.

Normally, under the Regulations, you’d have a seven-day cooling-off period in which you can cancel your order with no penalty. However, car hire does have quite the same laws. Once you’ve made the agreement with car hire you can’t cancel and claim a refund.

But that’s not your problem here. What you’re looking at is the difference in the rental fee you were quoted and what you actually had to pay. There you’ll find the Distance Selling Regulations are on your side, since you do have the right to know the cost plus any other applicable fees, and you should have had written confirmation of your order.

From what you say, it’s perfectly possible that the problem arose because of communication difficulties, and these can happen when travelling in a foreign country.

It would seem to be no excuse, though.

What makes this interesting is that the company did state you’d need to pay 174 Euros 'or thereabouts'. The car hire company might claim that the prices actually depend on market fluctuations in currency that are out of their control, which is within their rights. But it would seem unlikely that they could justify a difference of 156 Euros.

What you need to do is communicate with the car hire company by e-mail from home, stating the problem and providing copies of both their confirmation with the cost and what you actually had to pay.

State that you would like a refund of 156 Euros on the car hire as soon as possible and see what response that brings.

If you’re not satisfied with what the company says, try contacting any official trade organisation of which it’s a member, and ask them to mediate in the dispute. You should also contact Trading Standards, which can offer further advice on the steps you can take – legal action is possible, but you should really only consider it as a last resort.

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