I have written about what to look out for when hiring a car, and this case where a car hire firm leaves holidaymakers stranded is a shocker which spans various consumer laws.

BACKGROUND

One of my followers booked a car hire with www.gotrentalcars.com for a family holiday in France.

A day before leaving for a family driving holiday across France, they cancelled the car hire (without his consent). The car hire had been booked nearly a month earlier, leaving him, his wife and 3 small children completed abandoned and unable to find any alternative car hire.

The car hire firm then completed and deliberately ignored all his efforts to get in touch. The car hire firm failed to answer or respond to:

  • 7 phone calls
  • 4 answerphone messages
  • 4 emails (which he knows they read because of email tracking)

It was the height of the summer holiday season in the South of France and there was not a single other car available to hire anywhere.

They were supposed to be driving to stay at three remote destinations across France between Marseille and Paris.

EXTRA COSTS

They had to pay £300 for a taxi to their first destination and then wait three days at this remote location without a car before there was another car available through a different company.

He had to persuade a friend to waste a morning of their holiday to drive him back to Marseille airport to pick the car up. The replacement car hire was £300 more expensive for three days less hire.

Since repeatedly complaining upon their return www.gotrentalcars.com has completely ignored him.

ONLINE REVIEWS

He has also found out that he is far from the only person to suffer this experience by checking online reviews through Trustpilot. They are rated ‘poor’ with a 2.6 star rating out of 5.

Avis, which was the actual car hire provider, continues to work with www.gotrentalcars.com despite being entirely aware of the way it treats customers.

He has since published an article in The Times to warn people never to use www.gotrentalcars.com.

His parting shot on Twitter in this thread was to say, “Please for the sake of your sanity AVOID this company (it appears on price comparison websites)”.

CONSUMER RIGHTS

This case is a shocker and the customer rightly wants to hold them to account for this. It shines a spotlight on various consumer laws that most people wouldn’t be aware of.

CONSUMER RIGHTS ACT 2015

The starting point for most disputes is the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Any contract for goods or services has to meet the following criteria:

  • Fit for purpose
  • As described
  • Satisfactory quality
  • Lasts a reasonable length of time
  • Any services need to be carried out with due skill and care

He entered in to the contract in good faith and it has failed as it has not been delivered.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 has a fairness test.

Furthermore, consumers have rights as well as expectations and the car hire firm has failed on all counts in this instance.

Their reputation and other online reviews evidences that this case is not a one off either.

MISREPRESENTATION ACT 1967

The Misrepresentation Act 1967 is a little-known piece of legislation and places a reverse burden of proof on the trader. It is a belt and braces for the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and reinforces your legal rights.

In this case, the customer has been misled and a misrepresentation has taken place as per The Misrepresentation Act 1967.

The car hire firm cancelled it without good reason or explanation. He entered in to the contract in good faith and paid for goods and services that were not delivered as promised with due skill and care.

Had he known or realised that they could or would cancel it without an explanation, he would have gone elsewhere.

The Terms and Conditions are unreasonable and the car hire firm enticed him to make a decision he would not have made otherwise.

A misrepresentation has therefore taken place – the car hire firm needs to prove otherwise.

CONSUMER PROTECTION FROM UNFAIR TRADING REGULATIONS 2008

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 are designed to protect consumers from unfair or misleading trading practices and ban misleading omissions and aggressive sales tactics.

There are three basic rules on consumer protection in this legislation:

A general ban on unfair commercial practices.

A practice is unfair if it fails to meet the standard of ‘professional diligence’ (the standard of skill and care that would reasonably be expected of a trader in their field of activity), and it materially affects an average consumer’s ability to make an informed decision, causing them to make a decision they would not otherwise have made.

Misleading and aggressive practices.

Actions and omissions which are gauged in light of the effect they have, or are likely to have, on the average consumer.

A misleading action contains false information or in some way tricks a consumer in to making a different decision than they would have made otherwise.

An omission is where a retailer deliberately omits information or makes it unclear and confusing, or does not disclose that they have a commercial interest.

This links in neatly with The Misrepresentation Act 1967 on the Terms and Conditions.

In this case, the Terms and Conditions misled and enticed him to make a different decision that he would have made otherwise.

SECTION 75 – CONSUMER CREDIT ACT 1974

He paid by credit card, although unfortunately the credit card provider did not take the payment which means that they are not jointly liable.

Had the credit card provider taken the payment, they would have been held jointly liable under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

All costs incurred could have been reclaimed by a chargeback with the credit card provider.

SMALL CLAIMS COURT

I have advised him to drag them through the Small Claims Court and file a claim online. I would be claiming for all costs incurred, time spent and compensation for the stress and inconvenience.

CUSTOMER SERVICE AND LOYALTY

Companies need to raise their game and realise that consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about how to complain on social media. Bad experiences like this can and do go viral within minutes and can easily hit the media.

Consumers are also becoming aware of their rights. Fobbing off and ignoring a customer is a short-sighted approach and will only exacerbate the issues.

It is clear to me that cutbacks are being made, particularly on staff training, which will ultimately lead to many firms folding (and blaming it on coronavirus). In fact, I believe that some firms deliberately train their staff to mislead and mis-sell to customers based on the same complaints I see virtually every day with the same firms.

The importance of great customer service has never been more important than it is now. Firms that treat their customers unfairly will eventually find that they have none at all. We only have to look at Thomas Cook and Jet2 as polar opposites of how firms can survive and thrive in the toughest of environments by consistently going the extra mile. By doing so, they create long term loyalty and unpaid ambassadors and free advertising for the firm.

FOB OFFS

I think I have heard every fob off going, and coronavirus is the new catch all excuse and fob off for everything now. That is wearing thin with me and everyone else now. Firms have had plenty of time to adapt.

I keep saying that we are just taken for a bunch of mugs in this country, but the tide is turning and customers are wising up.

Have you had car hire problems abroad? If so, how did you resolve it?

 

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