Budget Rent-A-Car Complaint - Budget Ireland SCAM cost me $1800!!! - HOW TO GET MONEY BACK
DUBLIN IRELAND -- In May 2009, I had a troubling experience in Ireland (apparently notorious for scamming tourists). I have fought for six months and I have WON! Here's my story and here's how to defeat these common scams.
I rented a car from the Dublin airport, a gray VW Golf, and it was acting funny from the start. It stalled when the clutch was almost fully depressed and the gears would grind even when the clutch was fully depressed. At first I dismissed the stalling as learning a new cars behavior. But after only driving the vehicle for 9km (5.5 mi), the clutch burnt out leaving me stranded. Keep in mind I have years of experience on a stick shift as it was the first car I learned how to drive. I filled out an incident report and was told I would be contacted within days if there were any issues. I left Ireland for the USA 16 days later. Six weeks after THAT, I received a bill in the mail. They had already charged my credit card $1801.13!!! This included towing the vehicle from Dublin (country capital) to Galway (~200 km) along with labor, parts, and a "loss of car hire" fee of 88 euro. Even insurance companies get to assess damage before paying. Why wasn't I afforded this opportunity? I was never given a copy of my own statement, OR a copy of the investigation report concluding I was at fault. I was never even notified they were holding me liable or given information regarding where and when the vehicle was being repaired. There is no way I burned out a clutch in only 9 km and there is no way it should cost almost $2K to repair. Budget of the U. S says they have no jurisdiction. I've filed a complaint to the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, the European Consumer Center, the Car Rental Council of Ireland, and have sent certified letters to the car agency. It sucks because for the last month I have been raving about how wonderful Ireland was. So beautiful and everyone was so nice. I even had my coworker convinced she would retire there (she retires next month). I have since learned that Ireland is notorious for doing this to international renters. I started doing my own research and here's what I found:
1. Something like half of all complaints against car rental agencies in Europe are against Ireland.
2. There are SIX authorized VW dealerships in Dublin that quoted a third of the price to repair a clutch.
3. Low clutch/transmission fluid can simulate a burnt out clutch.
4. I contacted VW in Ireland and even they say there it is “highly unusual” for a clutch to burn out in 9km. I saved this email (you must get this info in writing).
5. Budget supposedly towed my vehicle all the way to Galway to "repair" when there were six authorized VW dealerships locally. They towed it to Flynn Brothers Garage. After calling around in Ireland, this is the same company as Flynn Brothers Rent A Car... which has the same phone number and is affiliated with Budget Rent a Car. So did they even really tow it to repair it? Or did they just have their sister company write up a fake invoice? The invoice didn't even have an odometer reading.
6. The repair on the invoice occurred SIX WEEKS after my trip. This implies that the car just sat around for six weeks before a repair yet they charged me only 88 euro for "loss of car hire."
7. I began blogging and right here on my3cents.com, a man named Zoltan found my story. Here's HIS story.... exactly one week prior to me, in April, he rented a gray VW Golf from the Dublin airport from Budget Rent a car. He drove his for 15 minutes before he realized something was wrong. He actually returned his vehicle. Seven weeks later, in June, he was charged $1801 from Flynn Brothers in Galway. This man has 30 years of experience driving stick shifts in over 50 countries with no issues but suddenly they say he broke their car?
Now that I've told you my story, let me update you on my WINNING RESULT:
My credit card denied my dispute to no surprise and same for Zoltan. So Zoltan found a lawyer ("solicitor") locally to Budget HQ in Ireland. They went through the 3 month process of sending letters and Budget claiming it was still our fault. They wouldn't budge, so we hit them with court papers. This time I will no longer accept the original $1800. I wrote an invoice for my time and money spent on the issue with receipts (logged international phone calls, certified mail, car checks, plus all of the HOURS spent) and charged my hourly rate as an engineer. Then we hit them with court papers demanding not only the $1800, but about $4700 total and that is to be ON TOP of our lawyer fees. Guess what. One day before the court date, my lawyer was sent a check for $4704.02!! I just got it in the mail and I am cashing it today! Zoltan got his check a few weeks ago. NEVER GIVE UP. If you are in the right, you will prevail if you persevere enough. Zoltan and I also contacted the Garda (police) in Ireland. Mostly they said it was a civil matter but Zoltan somehow got one to go pay Budget a visit and ask some questions. This just adds more pressure. Also I got Christopher Elliott, the travel guy from MSNBC (after multiple emails pleading for his interference) to contact Budget in Ireland as well. They never responded but more pressure is better. Now that I’ve won after 7 long months, I want to do my job to help others as well. So if this has happened to you, in ANY country, here’s how you win!
1. Don't pay your credit card. Dispute it. Keep in mind you WILL LOSE the dispute, but the process takes months and buys you time. In the mean time, go ahead and begin your research.
2. Blog like crazy. Ya never know who you will find out there that can help you out (like Zoltan). I also emailed Christopher Elliott, the travel guy from MSNBC. It took about 5 emails before I got his attention but once I did get his attention he contacted Budget in Ireland and that hopefully added pressure. Email news agencies, radio shows, anyone. Probably one out of 50 will respond, but you need all the publicity you can get to add pressure.
3. You must work with the local legal system. Even countries like Ireland have such different laws than the U.S. It will take time. Be patient. They will play chicken with you but stick it out; you will win. Just a letter from a lawyer will most likely not do it. It will take at least serving them papers for court. They will most likely wait until last minute before the court date to pay up. You just have to be patient and be persistent!! Let it go to court if it has to.
4. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission so it's logged. Once a company has so many complaints, they are required to investigate. Do your part in making sure this doesn't happen to others.
Victory Letter from my Solicitor!