Wednesday 14 November 2018

Car-hire firms accused of festive rip-off as prices soar

Breda Heffernan

CAR-hire firms have been accused of fleecing consumers over the busy Christmas period, with some more than trebling their rates.

One company that currently charges €69 a week for a small four-door car will be charging €216, or more than three times as much, during Christmas week. Most firms are charging at least double their early December rates, with small economy-class cars seeing the biggest hikes.

Consumer groups warned that the massive price increases will hit emigrants returning home for Christmas and threaten to further alienate tourists who already see Ireland as an expensive destination.

The biggest price difference was in the cost of hiring a small car, such as a Ford Fiesta, from Budget Car Rental. It costs €69 to hire this week, rising to €216 for Christmas week. This represents a whopping 213pc mark-up in the space of two weeks.

A similar-sized car from Argus Car Rentals costs €94 this week, but €263.08 -- or almost triple -- later in the month.

The cost of hiring cars at Hertz and Avis will also go up over Christmas week -- in some cases by over 130pc.

Labour spokesman on consumer affairs, Senator Brendan Ryan, said the increased cost of hiring a car was "truly shocking".

"At a time when we should be doing everything we can to attract visitors to Ireland, we have car-hire companies engaging in this kind of gouging. This is profiteering plain and simple.

Expensive

"Not only do these practices make it more expensive for tourists to visit Ireland, they also make it expensive for family members who may be returning to Ireland from abroad."

He said it was possible for Irish customers to make savings by booking car-hire over the internet using companies based in other countries, for example through American branches of international hire firms.

Ann Fitzgerald, chief executive of the National Consumer Agency, said that while increasing prices at busy times is not illegal, she advised consumers to shop around for the best deal.

"As there is no price control in Ireland, companies will charge what they think the market can bear and prices do seem to increase during the busiest periods,'' she said.

"A big problem with car rental is that the advertised basic price may be displayed as 'inclusive' of essential costs such as insurance and tax, but often excludes 'additional' key services such as hiring and returning the car to different places, returning outside business hours or crossing a border."

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