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Truly shafted here from paradise

Last week I rented a Ford Mondeo Estate car, picking it up at Luton Airport on Sun 21st and returning it to Stansted airport on Thurs 25th. We had the normal insurance cover provided by the car Rental Company but not extra insurance cover. The employee at Luton said he would give us a free upgrade from a normal saloon to a Mondeo Estate. (We didn’t ask for this). When I picked the car up we were asked to check the car paintwork as there was a bit of damage to it, but as it was both raining and dark we were told that we had until 12 o’clock mid day the next day to look at the car and report any damage. The next day was snowing and raining, so I was unable to look for any further damage to the vehicle and therefore thought it too late to report anything. The car was returned in exactly the condition in which I rented it four days earlier. I returned the car to Stansted and when I drove in an employee of Hertz came to inspect the car, he asked for the paperwork, which I gave to him and he remarked that he would have to check the car over as it had come from Luton. The employee then proceeded to look at the car minutely, examining every mark and scratch. Firstly, he tried to make out that I had made a small dink in the door (which was totally fictitious) but he said he would let that go. He looked at the interior seating and checked that the radio was working. He then checked the tyres and, after much scrutiny, pointed out a tiny nick in the tyre close to the rim (approx 2-3 mm). This wheel was on the corner of the car where there was a scrape on the bumper (which almost certainly had been caused at the same time). I took a photo of this small dig in the tyre on my mobile (I have this evidence although it is difficult to make out as it is so small). Paul, the employee then said he would have to charge for this damage (which was obviously nothing to do with me) and told me it would be £161. I said that I wouldn´t authorise this payment as it was totally unjust and he sat with a smug look on his face and said “it’s already been charged, mate”. I left the Rental Office in disgust as I was so angry. I received my Barclaycard bill this morning to discover
That the rental company has taken £221. Is this a common complaint and is there anything you think we should do to claim our money back and to make other customers aware of what could happen to them?

Asked on 22 May 2010 by M.L., Cartagena, Spain

Answered by Honest John
Yes, common complaint. Sue for the amount back using and the small claims track of the county
court if necessary on the grounds that it was grossly in breach of the
'reasonable' terms of a car rental agreement. Anyone hiring a car should check the contract very carefully for liability clauses and should go over the car with a fine tooth comb with the rep and
the sheet before taking it away. Take photographs of any damage with your phone or a digital camera. If you don't have time for that or if it's raining, then you will pay the price, as this reader did.
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