Easy Car Rental - Paris
Sixt Car Rental
Easy Car rental in Paris - subcontracted through Sixt in France becomes a two day nightmare and 5 month battle I have just been charged 300 euros for a puncture to a spare tyre which occurred 5 months ago in France after hiring a car though Easycar - Sixt. It is quite a long story, please bear with me.
I rented through Easycar, but at the gare de Lyon was directed to Sixt office who were renting me my car. Arriving at Sixt I was informed that the car I had ordered, an economic car, was not available and given a BMW 3 series. A very complicated car, which was quite difficult in the beginning to master and manoeuvre (being unfamiliar with both electronic keys and GPS systems).
The purpose of the trip and hiring the car was to collect some luggage for a friend who paid for the car, and transport them to Paris. There were not more than four bags, but as they contained books, they were very heavy. My friend who was travelling me and who had paid for the car was 4 months pregnant.
We arrived in Bordeaux without problems, stayed the night and departed at 2pm on Sunday to arrive in good time in Paris to depose the bags and return the car by 10pm to the Gare de Lyon agency. About 45 km south of Poitiers a message appeared on the GPS that said we had a 'depression d'air dans le pneu', a tyre leak, and that we should slow down to 80km per hour.
This I did and at the next available stop pulled over to check the tyre and call the Sixt assistance number in France and spoke to a customer assistant agent. I was surprised to notice this was not a free phone number.
The agent told us we should carry on driving to the next service station and then check the air. We continued about 40 kms to the next station where I stopped and as directed, refilled the tyre with air. After refilling it twice, and checking all four tyres of the car, I realised the rear right tyre did indeed have a puncture. I was not too concerned at this point, as we were safe, and I have changed a tyre before. In fact, I was pleased that the GPS system had been available to warn us.
I opened the boot to get the spare tyre out, and that was when I realised there was no spare tyre. Which I thought very strange. I called the Sixt assistance again; it was about 6pm at this time, he told me to look for the tyre in the boot and change it. Of course, I could not, as there was no tyre! So he advised me to call the gendarme and ask them to send motorway assistance. Half an hour after calling the local police, a mechanic arrived with breakdown truck. He looked at the problem and told us that this kind of car had special tyres that he could not replace and did not have in stock (run flat system). He (not the Sixt assistance), informed us that with this car we could carry on driving normally at 80km per hour. But that the 432 km to =A8Paris was too long, and offered to tow us to the garage in the nearest town, where we could contact BMW.
I called the SIXT agent again and informed him of our position; he did not propose any alternative.
Once we arrived at the garage in St. Maixent L'Ecole, a small town about 560 km south of Poitiers, the garagiste contacted both BMW and Sixt assistance, and for the next two hours, these three parties attended to the problem of the car, while my friend and I waited. Eventually we were told that the tyre could not be fixed that night; that it was under warranty, that we were no longer allowed to drive it or touch it. Moreover, it had to be towed to BMW in the morning for a replacement tyre. The garagiste noted at this point (around 8pm), that while SIXT had been quite preoccupied with the car, they had done nothing to occupy themselves with us. It was by this time very late and very cold and my friend was beginning to panic about how we would get home.
I called Sixt, again, and after several minutes of being kept on hold, being told we would be called back=85 recalling and recalling etc etc. I was finally told at 8.30 pm that we had ONLY two options. Either a) Sixt could try to locate another car for us, which he said, would be virtually impossible on a Sunday night. Or we could take the 10.50pm train from Poitiers to Paris. They did not propose a solution for either getting to Poitiers or transporting our luggage. In fact the best idea they came up with, was that we leave the luggage at the garage and return during the week to collect it, supposedly with another hire car?
At this point, we were in a small town about 65km from Poitier. The local train station was closed. We had some very heavy bags and my friend was pregnant. If we had taken a taxi to Poitiers, it would have cost at least 80euro. (This was confirmed the next day by our taxi driver). A train ticket from Poitiers to Paris is between 50-60 Euros per person. Assuming we would arrive in time to purchase a ticket and catch a train. If for any reason we missed the train we would then have to find accommodation in Poitiers.
In any case taking a train was not a good solution. My friend was pregnant and could not carry luggage. It was already very late and very cold. And we had no way of knowing if we would arrive in Poitiers on time to get a ticket. I also asked him why he had not begun looking for a replacement car at 6pm when the problem first occurred. But was given a very haughty response that even if they had started looking at 4pm there was no cars. I was then told to wait. 'We are sending a fax to the head office in Germany to find a car'. Another twenty minutes past and I had no further news. I called yellow pages and asked for the number of the nearest hotel to where we were to assure myself that I would at least be able to take my friend somewhere that night.
I then called Sixt again, and the agent, Mehjid, informed me there were no cars anywhere. He proposed no other solution. I asked him if he could find a car for the morning, and he said they could look for a car in the morning. I then insisted that they look for the car immediately as we would need to pick it up at 8am so that we could unload the BMW, which had to be taken to the BMW garage the next morning. Eventually he agreed to find a car for the morning. I then asked if Sixt would cover the cost of the hotel and the taxi to the hotel, and he said YES and 'don't worry about anything, the customer services will deal with everything in the morning'. To be fair, he was quite concerned, as I was, about my pregnant friend, and by this time, I was also shivering with cold. He also told us not to worry as all the calls were recorded so we would have a complete record of the conversation. I did not at this time feel that we needed to call the customer service number, as our problem seemed to have been dealt with.
So quite relieved I called the hotel and asked them for some taxi numbers. It took us half an hour to find a taxi in the small town and the garagiste kindly let us wait at the garage and showed us how to let ourselves out and lock the door. We left the BMW at the garage, and took a tax to the hotel. There I was called 'for the first time', by a person from Sixt, who told us that we would be collected in the morning by taxi and taken to the next town where we could collect a new hire car.
The rest of the service was quite good; we collected the car from National Citer and returned to the garage in St. Maixent L'Ecole to unload the car.
At this point, I called the Customer service number to verify everything was indeed being taken care of as promised. That is when I had my next big shock. In fact, a woman at customer service said they did not know anything about what had happened to our vehicle and us. I then explained to her at great length, (again not on a toll free number). And was told very abruptly that Sixt would not pay for the hotel and that we would be expected to deal with the repairs of the BMW. In fact she know nothing of our situation, and did not really care. When I asked her if the calls were recorded she said no, they were never recorded. She said we would have to pay for everything, and then offered to hang up on me. I arrived at the garage where I retold this to the garage owner, who was then quite concerned that he would also not be refunded for his services. He called Sixt assistance and asked them to send a fax to confirm they would take on charge the delivery and emergency assistance. And was told they didn't have a fax machine!
The garagiste confirmed with BMW that the cost of replacing the 'special tyre' was around 270 Euro. By this point I was afraid to leave the BMW, especially as the last person I had spoken to had told me had told me I was responsible for the replacement tyre and the garage bills.
I called customer service again and asked to speak to the person in charge. It was a French lady who replied, her name is Mme Anne Laure Delobel. She told me that the person in charge was busy. When I insisted that I did not want to repeat my story again to another person, but preferred to speak to one person, preferably the responsible who could give me a single, authoritative answer to my questions. I was told he was busy, probably having a coffee. I asked if I could speak to someone who was familiar with my history and was told that was not possible. I then had to tell my story again. And was again told that Sixt would take no responsibility for anything, that I would have to take care of the car and pay the hotel bills and whatever the cost of the tyre was.
At this point we were extremely worried and really did not know what to do. It was a nightmare. I called customer service again, and spoke to Mme Delobel, who this time put me through to the responsible. By this time we had been waiting at the garage for two hours not knowing what to do. The responsible Mr Floreali, was very nice. He said we did not have to stay with the car, and could leave in the second car hire for Paris but that we would be charged for only one tyre. Finally we were able to leave.
We arrived in Paris later that afternoon and I returned the 2nd car to National Citer. At this point I would like to point out two things. Firstly, National Citer confirmed with me that their clients were also made responsible for tyres in the event of a puncture. But that they did NOT have any cars with run flat system tyres. They also had one toll free number.
I agree with the policy that a customer must replace a tyre. But how are we supposed to in such a circumstance? And how can a car company justify having a rule such as this, when it is completely beyond the clients control whether he is able to replace a tyre?
My complaints are the following:
1. The SIXT assistant was not familiar with the cars that SIXT hires, or this particular anomaly of 'special' tyres for BMW's, and so was not able to give knowledgeable assistance.
2. I used up my entire phone forfeit over the two days calling Sixt. Everytime somebody took my number, but never was I called back when I asked to be and was always kept several minutes on hold when I called.
3. Both myself and my friend lost a days work. We also experienced unnecessary trauma, worry, stress and frustration.
4. We incurred very high costs, which would not have been incurred had we had a normal car with a spare tyre.
These costs include: the Hotel bill 197 Euro Taxi to Hotel 7.00 Euro BMW tyre (280 Euro approx) which is 200 Euro more than a normal tyre.
In addition, I would argue, that is entirely possible, due to the nature of this tyre, that it was in fact punctured when I received the vehicle; since it is clear that the tyre can run very great distances without a puncture even being noticed. How can you prove that this puncture was not already present when I received the car?
BMW also said that they treated this as a technical error and that the car was under warranty, so it shouldn't have cost SIXT anything to replace the tyre.
It is outrageous that these kinds of cars, without spare wheels should be given to people without their being informed of the consequences that a tyre puncture may have. The much higher cost. And the possibility that they will be unable to repair the tyre or find a replacement car, and be stranded in the middle of nowhere, unable to help themselves.
It is also outrageous the way we were spoken to and treated by the Sixt customer service in France. Who obviously are hired not to help their customers, but merely hired, possible trained, to cover any liability on the part of SIXT. Mme Delobel told me that we had been the victim of misfortune. But I believe we had been the victim of Sixt.
I sent a copy of this letter to Easycar Customer services by e-mail, and they sent me a satisfactory reply:
'Thank you for your patience in this matter, this incident has now been fully investigated by SIXT Head Office and they have offered their sincere apologies. With regards to there being no spare tyre with the vehicle, they can confirm that this BMW model runs a 'Run flat' system, this means that you can run an extra 100km to 200km before changing the tyre. We appreciate that this was not the vehicle of your choice and can completely sympathize with the difficulties you experienced. Your other comments have been escalated to the Manager of the Branch; they are also now training their staff in vehicles new features such as the 'Run flat' system. Ourselves and SIXT pride ourselves and providing a high standard of Customer Service and regret that our normal high standards were not met. For this SIXT would like to refund you for the taxi and hotel fees you incurred. Can you please provide me with your credit card details so as I can pass them on to SIXT for them to debit you back, also if you provide me with your full postal address as they would like to send you a voucher for your next rental.'
Well that was very nice but unfortunately it was not the end of the story, as although easycar were very nice and sorry on behalf of themselves and Sixt (who nevertheless two months later did refund my friend the hotel bill), unfortunately SIXT in France had other ideas. They waited 5 months and then decided to charge my card for 300 euros anyway. By which time the complaint was too old (as I have just been informed) to take to the European complaints commission. They also say that since there was no breach of contract (I should have replaced the tyre and have paid for it) then there is no complaint.
I have recently seen that SIXT are carrying out full page adverts boasting their new fleet of BMW tyres. But are they going to change their contracts to not include the old rule that customers are liable to replace a tyre when they cannot physically do so. Or inform them that they will have to pay 300 euros to replace that tyre.
I really do not know what to do now. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
16 Cadogan Close