I received some written communication today from Sue Roberts at Europcar. This relates to the fortnight-long saga that began when I returned a Vauxhall Corsa to Belfast International and was charged £827 in damages ( part 1, part 2, part 3 for anyone looking to get up to speed).
Let’s start with the conclusion and work our way back:-
In conclusion and with thorough investigation of the facts, I will not be able to consider any further refund of the damage charge, however as a result of your useful feedback I have however, sent you £30 in money off vouchers as a thank you for taking the time to make us aware of your experience.
Long story short, Europcar don’t fancy giving my money back. To be fair to them, they have attempted to justify it by printing out my terms and conditions, including these little stormers:-
You are liable for & will pay to Us (whether You were at fault or not) all reasonable costs of repair to return the Vehicle to the same condition as at the Start of Rental e.g. extra valeting, roadside assistance fees, repairs, materials/ equipment & replacement of the Vehicle.
You acknowledge & grant permission for Us to charge any credit, charge or debit card nominated at Start of Rental (shown over) with any charges due to Us under this RA at any time during & after the Rental Period
I like the second one best. Technically this means they can take money out of my account today if they wanted to. This is quite interesting as there are numerous reviews on the Internet mention damage charges being taken months after the time of the rental. Thanks to the super-efficient staff at Belfast International, this didn’t happen on this occasion. They’d taken the £827 damage charge out of my account before I’d even embarked on my plane. Still, food for thought.
They were also good enough to provide me a copy of the damage sheet. I have reproduced it here.
I have to say, this “proof” that I damaged the car is almost worth the £152 I’m still owed.
The car was checked by someone simply identified as “Paddy”. It adds some nice local context, I agree – but I guess I’ve been spoiled by the practice of seeing official documents with people’s full names on them. Whatever – Shakespeare said brevity is the soul of wit. Let’s see what sort of a job Paddy did.
The first thing to note is that most of the form has not been filled in. I’m willing to overlook the Customer name and Signature being blank. I’m guessing that those are things that I’d have filled in had Paddy and I worked collaboratively on this document. I am somewhat less forgiving about some other aspects of the documentation.
Let’s take a look at the diagram of the car first. My problem here is that Paddy doesn’t seem to be using the key supplied on the document. He’s pointed to a couple of things and marked them MS and MD. According to the key, M represents soiled and D represents dent less than 25mm width with paint damage or on swage line. S doesn’t appear on the key at all. So straight away, I’m a little confused. Things don’t get any better.
Just below that, we’ve got a section marked:-
Tyre Damage YES / NO (circle)
Nothing done here. Were the tyres damaged? Who knows? You’d assume no, but it’s indeterminate.
Moving onto the important stuff now – things that directly affect my rental. The date has been filled in, but Paddy has gone a bit ‘freestyle’ on the month. It looks like a 6 drawn over a 2 twice. It could represent a six, but it’s not actually legible. I don’t blame Paddy for not simply starting a new Vehicle Check In Document at this point. With so much work already achieved at this point, who would want to start again?
Time. Blank. One of the most important parts of the dispute, something Europcar claim happened at 17:00. The truth is, they don’t know what time this vehicle was checked in, because Paddy didn’t write it down.
Just when you think it can’t get any better, we get to the one question that is absolutely central to this whole dispute.
Is the vehicle damaged? yes / no (circle)
I’m not an expert in booking returned hired car in, but even I know what needs to be done on that part of the form. You just circle one or the other. Paddy didn’t circle either. According to that form, the question of whether that car is damaged or not is indeterminate.
So, wrapping this Vehicle Check In Document up.
- Illegible date
- No time
- Describing the damage without using the key supplied on the sheet.
- No indication of whether tyre damage had occurred
- No indication of whether the vehicle is damaged
- No comments provided
I’m well aware of the pressures of work, but even so, this document is a shambles. Europcar know it, which is why they’re referring me to the most draconian sections of their terms and conditions – stuff like “you’ll pay even if its not your own fault” and “we’ll take money out whenever we like”.
I’ve commented on my pre-return ritual before, but one of the things that I just can’t let go of with regard to their alleged damage is the dent. I have driven my own car around Northern Ireland. There are a lot of loose stones on the road, etc. I’ve got stonechips from those before, and I can imagine it’d be easy to get a scratch. A dent, though? Getting a dent normally involves hitting something. I know that didn’t happen, which is why I’m so ardent that I didn’t cause the damage.
Could someone have hit it with their suitcase as they were walking past? It has been described as being between 25mm and 75mm, so possibly. The point is moot – it’s still perfectly clear from the T+Cs that I’m still liable.
The resolution that Europcar have arrived at is unacceptable. They may have the legal clout to enforce their mandatory T+Cs, but I was assured by Sue Roberts of Europcar’s Customer Services that my case would be thoroughly investigated and that noted executives within Europcar had taken a keen interest in the case. Whatever their investigation entailed, it clearly didn’t involve a quick eyeball of the Vehicle Check In Document.
I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but their offer of £30 in vouchers is of no interest to me. I have already spent (in lost income) more money than the £152 still owed just by writing these blog posts. Not only that, but after the experience I’ve just had with the company, I have no desire to do business with them again.
Every attempt they’ve made to explain something, whether it’s the immediate £800 excess, the proof of the state of the car or their legal position – has just prompted further questions or highlighted further indifference or incompetence.
In this at least, the Vehicle Check In Document is a masterwork, and I’d really like to know how Europcar can say:-
In conclusion and with thorough investigation of the facts, I will not be able to consider any further refund of the damage charge
…when the linked Vehicle Check In Document sheet is their “proof”.