Sunday 23 September 2018

'The pictures clearly show no damage' - Irish customers furious over car rental company 'unfairly keeping deposits'

  • Businessman charged £1,205 for alleged dent
  • Engineer's report rendered vehicle unfit for hire but rental company 'does not share that view' and continues to rent car
  • Report does not contain any description of the alleged damage
  • Number of customers have issued complaints to Ryanair, who advertise the company
  • 'It is important that the customer plays their part and fully reads and understands the Terms & Conditions' - Green Motion spokesperson
A Green Motion staff member pointing out the perceived damage to the car rented by Stuart Summerfield
A Green Motion staff member pointing out the perceived damage to the car rented by Stuart Summerfield
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A businessman who hired a car from rental company Green Motion has hit out at how it retained his deposit, as photographs appear to show no damage was done to the vehicle.

Stuart Summerfield, from Co Sligo, photographed the car as it was inspected by a Green Motion staff member at Luton Airport in May.

The company withheld £1,205 (€1,371) as it claimed there was a dent in the driver's door of the Peugeot 108.

However, pictures provided by Mr Summerfield appear to show no visible damage.

Photograph taken by Stuart Summerfield of the Peugeot 108
Photograph taken by Stuart Summerfield of the Peugeot 108

The engineer’s report, carried out by a firm called 'Gray & Company', does not provide any description of the damage but said the cost of repairs would be £1,126 (€1,281).

In the general remarks section of the report, the engineer said: "The vehicle is used for the purposes of spot hire. Impact damage however renders the vehicle unfit for this particular use.

"I believe that the facts that which I have stated in this report are true and that the opinions I have expressed are correct."

The report said the cost of labour would work out at £720 and the new parts for the car would cost just £12.

Pictures of the alleged damage
Pictures of the alleged damage

Despite the engineer stating the alleged damage would render the vehicle unfit for rent, a Green Motion employee told Mr Summerfield that the vehicle was "out on hire".

Mr Summerfield asked Green Motion to provide photographs of the alleged damage and an employee said in an email: "The car is out on hire at the moment and is due back on Tuesday, I have told the location to ground the car so we see the extent of the damage and to have more photographs taken so we can assess the extent the damage."

A spokesperson for Green Motion told Independent.ie it could not comment on the statement made by Gray & Company.

"It is important to note that nowhere on the document does it state that the vehicle is unsafe or not roadworthy," the company said.

"The engineer has only inspected the area of damage. Green Motion do not share the view that minor cosmetic damage requires the vehicle to be grounded or renders the vehicle unfit for purpose."

Mr Summerfield is an Associate Member of the Institute of Traffic Accident Investigators, a road safety organisation, and said he would be familiar with engineering reports.

“Through my work I see lots of vehicle engineers reports. The one from Green Motion does not include a description of the damage (other than front driver’s door) or photographs of the damage. I have never seen this before,” he said.

"The pictures I have clearly show no damage."

In response to Mr Summerfield's claims, Green Motion said the following: "When Mr Summerfield returned the car, the vehicle inspector noted a dent on the exterior of the driver’s door. The photographs taken by the customer were inadequate in showing the damage (pictures taken at a wide angle from which it is difficult to see a dent), and additional photographs taken by the staff at the Luton location."

The company provided the following photos to Independent.ie, which it claims show the alleged damage outlined above.

car rental company 2.jpg

Independent.ie has been contacted by a number of disgruntled Irish customers who have described bad experiences with Green Motion.

A number of people have also issued complaints to Ryanair, which features adverts for Green Motion on its website after passengers book flights.

Vicky Smith, a young mother from Co Galway, rented a car from Green Motion in Luton in June.

She said the car was "covered in dust and filthy dirty" when she and her partner picked it up.

When they arrived at the destination, she noticed there was a scratch on the back of the car which she hadn't spotted before, and is adamant the scratch wasn't caused by her.

"I booked a car through  Ryanair's website and we went to collect our car from Green Motion in Luton Hampton, Hilton hotel,” she said.

"A mystery scratch appeared and they ended up debiting our card €1167 on Tuesday 05/06/18 at 08.30 am.

"The whole experience was horrific. I have complained to Green Motion head office, Ryanair and I am waiting to hear back on the final cost of the damage. We have not been refunded anything yet and I am fighting the case. I did not cause the scratch on the car and if I had i would take responsibility."

Scratch on car.jpg
A picture of the scratch on the car rented by Ms Smith

A Ryanair spokesperson told Ms Smith that Ryanair Car Hire is an "introductory service" and as a result, "we are unable to investigate damage charges with our car rental partners directly."

Mrs Smith got in contact after reading about the experience of Leonard and Siobhan Foley, from Tralee, Co Kerry.

The couple rented a car from Green Motion’s base at Luton Airport and say they were charged for damage they didn’t cause.

After initially retaining the £1205 deposit amount for scuff and scratches in the boot of the car, Green Motion deducted £90.97 and returned the remaining funds to the Foleys.

Mr Foley says this is still unacceptable as they did not cause any damage.

"We attended a wedding so we only used the car to get there and back," he said.

"The following day we placed our bags in the boot and travelled back to Green Motion car hire.  As soon as we arrived at the car park there was an employee who went directly to the boot and opened the boot and pointed out scuff and scratches which he claimed we were responsible for.

"He then entered the back of the car to point out more damage which he also said we were responsible for.

"It's not even about the money, it's the principle as we did not cause that damage."

A Ryanair spokesman said they are looking into the above reports.

"We have asked our car hire provider, Car Trawler, to look into these bookings."

Car Trawler said they "endeavour to provide the best service possible to our customers".

"We take all customer complaints very seriously and work with the suppliers to resolve any issues that arise as quickly as effectively as possible.

"Where relevant we impose penalties on our suppliers where service levels have not met our own, our partners or indeed our customers’ expectations."

Green Motion offers cheap deals and has franchised branches at most major UK airports.

However, its cheap deals appear to come at a hefty price.

Several customers have taken to Facebook and forums on TripAdvisor to complain about deposits being retained.

The most common complaints centre on customers being "overcharged for small blemishes that already existed" and existing damage not being noted on the rental agreement.

In response to Ms Smith's claims, the company said they would be charging £563.30 as they believe the scratch was caused by Ms Smith.

"All car rental companies operate in a very competitive market space with rental revenues diminishing year on year and unfortunately have to ensure that damage caused by customers is appropriately charged for," the statement read.

"It is important that the customer plays their part and fully reads and understands the Terms & Conditions of hire prior to commencing with the rental. They should also take seriously the matter of hiring a vehicle and the documentation they sign. They are not asked to sign for the condition of the vehicle for fun."

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