Europcar.com / damage scam
We hired a car online through Holiday Autos and they allocated us to Europcar at Lyon airport in May 2008. We had no problems at all with the car (and no bumps) and when we returned it to the airport a uniformed Europcar employee carefully inspected it and (in front of us five adults from three different families) said there was no problem, nothing to sign and sent us off with a smile. "Nice company to do business with" I thought.
Back home they sent us an invoice saying "Damage Surcharge" (no other explanation) for a ludicrously round figure of EUR 1, 000.00 plus VAT which they translated at an appalling rate (which I don't believe they're allowed to do without permission) into GBP 975.24. That's a rate of 1.226 EUR to GBP when the real rate on my credit card the day we took the car back was 1.27. Then they compounded the scam by taking it from my credit card account in two chunks, presumably to avoid large amount checks that could have stopped the scam at source.
Since then I have spent an enormous amount of time writing, emailing etc with no response whatsoever from Europcar (France or UK), nothing useful from Holiday Autos either. But just in time my credit card company (Nationwide, who give excellent exchange rates on overseas purchases) have come up trumps and put the scam amounts into dispute status so at least they won't hit my bank account on Monday.
My guess is that Europcar puts intolerable pressure on its employees to meet short term targets whatever the long term cost in terms of customers outraged by their behavior. It's not just that I would never use Europcar again - I'm so annoyed by their scam that I want to warn as many other people as I can too.
Incidentally we did pay Holiday Autos a modest sum for a damage excess waiver - but their terms say they can only reimburse a damage excess charge if there is a damage report. How could there be a damage report when the Europcar inspector agreed there was no damage and nothing to sign?
The previous time we rented a car in France I chose Sixt, from Montpellier airport. We had the same car, a Ford CMAX, as from Europcar but none of the nasty aftershocks.
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