Car Wars

Fueling a rental row
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The Independent Travel

Giving a blank credit-card slip to a hotel or car-hire firm as a deposit is unsettling. It puts the onus on you to prove that you did not raid the mini-bar or spend the whole night on the telephone, rather than the company having to show you did.

Giving a blank credit-card slip to a hotel or car-hire firm as a deposit is unsettling. It puts the onus on you to prove that you did not raid the mini-bar or spend the whole night on the telephone, rather than the company having to show you did.

When I returned my Europcar rental car at Edinburgh airport, the woman behind the desk said a cheery, "That's great," and took the keys when I told her that I had just filled up the petrol tank. She said they would keep the credit-card slip until the car was checked.

The invoice arrived a week later. The company had charged £17.60 for fuel, at an outrageous £1.10 per litre, plus VAT, making the total £21.80.

At Europcar customer services, the chap who answered seemed unsurprised by my tale. "Kindly hold on while I phone our Edinburgh office," he said.

Within a minute he had come back: "There was a mistake and we have ascertained that you did return the car with a full tank. I will reimburse your £21.80 immediately on your card." But how had the charge got there in the first place? "We based the charge on the number of miles you had driven." The excuse made no sense. To base the charge on distance, they must have checked the mileage gauge and have seen the tank was full.

A spokeswoman for Europcar refuted the suggestion that a standard charge is slapped on in the expectation that business users will not notice or care: "This was a one-off mistake by one of our staff," she said. "We will be ensuring it does not happen again."

Readers should check car-hire bills and keep fuel receipts in case of dispute.

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