Europcar Complaint - Review of Europcar: Unethical, dodgy, unfriendly, overall terrible experience
I hired a car from Europcar in Perth, Western Australia in October 2009.
I previously was a long term Europcar customer, hiring through work probably once a month, and normally I would hire the most expensive luxury car available.
Over the previous 12 months I noticed the customer service going downhill with each experince with Europcar getting more and more painful.
On this particular experience I hired an Audi A3 from Perth Airport when I was away with my girlfriend for a weekend. Our flighy arrived at around 8pm and it was dark when we collected the vehicle. After collecting the keys from the pickup counter at baggage collection we had to walk nearly a kilometre to the parking lot where the car was located. The carpark where the car was collected from was dimly lit and after a 4 hour flight from Adelaide it did not cross our mind to go over the car in detail to search for damage as it was my expectation that after renting cars quite literally hundreds of times in my life that I would not have to worry about this.
My girlfriend and I proceeded to drive the car to the Parmellia Hilton in Perth where the car was parked in an undercover carpark for the weekend, only taking it one night to a restaurant for dinner where it was parked in an onsite park out the front of the restaurant in a quiet Perth suburb.
When returning the vehicle to Perth airport on the Sunday, I was surprised to be asked to wait around for 10 minutes whilst the Indian fellow who processed the return performed a detailed inspection of the vehicle.
After nearly 10 minutes of checking over the vehicle, he came accross a tiny stone chip in the middle of the hood, something I would not have even been able to find if I had even inspected the vehicle. When returning the car, I noticed that he was holding paperwork that showed that I was a customer that hadn't taken out the excess reduction insurance - this is a scam where Europcar gets you to pay a large additional daily fee so that if they find damage of any sort they limit the amount you pay back to them.
It was quite clear that the company had advised the person in the incoming car park that I was a customer who had not paid the excess reduction and he was instructed to find any excess to charge me the $3,500 excess fee. It is a policy of Europcar if you do not pay their extra fees, then they will charge you $3,500 regardless of the level of damage.
The Indian fellow of course immediately proceeded to blame me for damage to the vehicle, howver upon closer questioning of him, he came to admit that Europcar had absolutely no way of verifying that the damge was or was not on the car when I had taken it out. Knowing that I would be up for a fight with the company I immediately pulled out my iPhone and recorded a conversation with him, and this has kindly been hosted by the good folk at boycotteuropcar.com - http://www.boycotteuropcar.com/europcar. mp3.
The Indian fellow said that he had no choice but to report the damage to the office in the airport where they would charge my credit card for $3,500.
I then proceeded to move to the Europcar office in the airport. After 10 minutes of discussing the issue with the manager, they sent a team out to the vehicle with a ruler to measure the size of the stone chip. They came back and reported to me that the size of the chip was 1milimetre over the threashold as to what they wall consider to be 'wear and tear', as result they would have to charge me $3,500 for the 'damage'. The most upsetting part about this was that both my girlfriend and I were absolutely certain that this damage did not occur whilst we were driving the car, and the staff at Europcar were completely unsympathetic, and almost excited to charge the $3,500 like they were getting a commission bonus from it.
I of course continued to engage in discussion with the manager in a calm, collected and mild mannered way. The manager at the desk told me that I was stopping her from serving the next customer and said that she was not willing to continue discussing the matter. She completely closed the book on further discussion and would not accept that it was unreasonable to continue discussing damage they wanted to charge me $3,500 for, over whether it was 1mm over the limit as to where they would just ignore it.
The managers method of dealing with the matter was, 'I'm sick of talking about this, go away now so I can charge your card and serve other customers'. I claimed that I had a right to a fair dispute process and her response was that she pressed a button under the desk that called over the federal police where she reported me to be a nusiance and I was warned that if I were to be un an unhappy state that I would not even be allowed to fly home.
Thankfully the time in which she spent discussing the unreasonable customer who was unhappy about being charged $3,500 over a tiny stone chip that he didn't cause with the federal police gave me enough time to call my credit card company and cancel the card.
This was the last I heard of the matter until January 2010. I received a letter from a lawfirm called Mendelsons seeking immediate payment within 7 days on behalf on Europcar for the amount $1,915.67.
I wrote back to this lawfirm advising them of what had happened. I received a call from the firm and they said that they were willing to reduce their legal fees by $225, and the final amount would be reduced to $1,690.67.
I explained that I would like the matter formally reviewed and would like to start a dispute process with the company. I also advised the company that I had personal travel insurance that would cover this amount of money, however felt the charge was unethical and would like it to be reviewed.
Without any further contact, I received another letter from the lawfirm saying that negotiation was unsuccessful and they would take me to court within 7 days if I didn't pay the balance. Copies of these letters can be found at http://www.boycotteuropcar.com/dodgy_lawyers. pdf
I am now at a crossroads where I am being extorted by Europcar, either goto court, pay the money, or damage my credibility with my insurance company by filing a claim that makes me look like a bad driver.
I warn people out there, do not trust this company, under no circumstances, NEVER hire with Europcar.
I have been using AVIS ever since and their service is amazing, I wish I had been using them all along instead of Europcar.