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Revealed: The 'Laurel and Hardy' tactics used by car rental firms to catch customers

Calls for improved regulations and transparency in vehicle hire sector

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The alleged damage above a rear wheel, which Cathy McDonnell insists she didn’t cause

The alleged damage above a rear wheel, which Cathy McDonnell insists she didn’t cause

John Fahey was charged  €1,627.61 for costs arising out of this dent

John Fahey was charged €1,627.61 for costs arising out of this dent

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The alleged damage above a rear wheel, which Cathy McDonnell insists she didn’t cause

Tourists, customers and staff working at car rental companies have shared their experiences of the Irish car rental market and are calling for improved regulations and transparency.

Some negative encounters include a young mother who was forced to pay more than €400 for damage she claims she didn't cause and US tourists having to fork out hundreds of euro before boarding their flight home.

A former employee of a Dublin-based company also shared some of the underhanded tactics used by his colleagues.

He told how holidaymakers were "left in tears" at the end of their trips after being charged for damage they alleged wasn't caused by them.

"The tactics were very 'Laurel and Hardy' style," he said.

"Laurel would check the vehicle, identify a scratch within 20 seconds and then go into the office to get Hardy to come out and assess the 'damage'. He'd make up a figure there on the spot and then the customer would have to fork out. Most people pay as they have flights to catch and have no option.

"There were some customers, they'd had a great holiday but they were in tears then going home after they said they were charged for scratches they didn't cause.

"It was always just your average holidaymaker who was targeted, very rarely would business people be targeted. It always seemed to be families with kids."

Some customers who were charged for damage they didn't cause got refunds after fighting the case.

Cathy McDonnell, a young mother from Dublin, rented a vehicle from Enterprise Rent-A-Car on Pottery Road in Dún Laoghaire in September.

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Her own car was undergoing a service. She requested a small vehicle but was instead given a Nissan Qashqai.

A staff member then instructed her to inspect the vehicle for scratches and paint damage. After failing to notice any marks, Ms McDonnell signed the rental agreement.

She was then faced with charges of €491.12 for an alleged dent over the rear wheel when she returned the car, which she is adamant she didn't cause. Enterprise failed to furnish her with an engineer's report outlining the damage, despite numerous requests by Ms McDonnell.

"When I went to pick up the vehicle I was directed to look for paint damage and scratches, and when I brought it back, I was told within seconds there was a bump over the rear wheel," said Ms McDonnell.

"I only had it for two days. It was parked in my front drive, it was once parked in the underground car park in work and once in Tesco car park in Dún Laoghaire. I can't understand how the damage would have happened while I had it.

"It was the kind of damage that you wouldn't notice at first glance. It would be easy to miss. I just don't get why they gave me a completely different car to the one I asked for.

"I told them I intend to dispute the damage and I'm still waiting for a detailed report about the damage - all I got was an invoice."

The Irish Independent contacted the Enterprise head office for comment and was told a specialist hadn't yet been assigned to the claim and they couldn't discuss it due to data protection reasons.

However, Ms McDonnell has since confirmed that an Enterprise staff member phoned on Friday to say she will now be offered a full refund.

Enterprise then issued a statement saying that while it believed the branch correctly charged the customer for damage, it was now refunding the full amount to the customer as a "gesture of goodwill".

Customers have been calling for improved transparency when it comes to damage assessment by engineers.

John Fahey, from Long Island, New York, visited Ireland in 2015 and rented a car at Knock Airport. He travelled around the west of Ireland and had an unfortunate experience when somebody hit the car in a car park in Kerry and left the scene. Eyewitnesses provided statements to Hertz.

Hertz charged him €1,627.61 for costs arising out of the dent, including the time the vehicle had to be off the road.

Hertz eventually tracked down the driver of the other vehicle and returned the money to Mr Fahey.

"To me, even though I got the money back, the cost of the initial damage just seemed really high," said Mr Fahey.


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