How Europcar stole £22.08 from me (and why you shouldn’t rent from them)

I mentioned last year that, living in rural England, I often find it useful to drive a hire car home from airports, and that Europcar had been my favoured option. But now they’ve stolen £22.08 from me, so I’ll have to find a different car-rental company to use.

24-europcar

Here’s the rental agreement I signed for £119.50. Then I drove the 114 miles home from Heathrow airport. Assuming the car got about 40 mpg, which would be typical for a small car, I used about three gallons of petrol, which is 13 litres. As always, I topped up the tank just before I got home, at a cost of £15.25 — pretty much what you’d expect to pay for 13 litres of petrol given recent prices around £1.15 per litre:

25-petrol-receipt

But when I checked my Visa statement a month later, I found that Europcar had taken £141.58 from my account rather than the agreed £119.50. They had overcharged by £22.08, so I wrote to them:

Dear Europcar,

I rented a car at Heathrow Airport at 11:45am on 13 June 2015. My name is Mike Taylor, and my rental agreement # is 139975567. The agreed price, including the pick-up at the other end, was £119.50, which I signed for. Now, checking my Visa statement, I see that you instead charged £141.58.

Please refund the additional £22.08.

Thanks,

— Mike.

Two days later they wrote back:

Dear Mr Taylor

Thank you for your query to Europcar Customer Services, received on 15th July 2015.

At the end of the rental, the vehicle has taken 7.72 litres to refill for the succeeding customer. This amount has been added to your final invoice, which is why there is an increase in the value of the rental.

Please find attached a copy of your final invoice.

Regards

Zara PRICE
Europcar UK Group | Customer Services

OK, they somehow made a mistake. Somehow they though I’d left the tank 7.72 litres short; but I hadn’t, and had the receipt to prove it. So I followed up immediately:

Thanks for getting back to me. This is incorrect: I filled the tank at Mitcheldean, 2.8 miles from my home, in order to leave the tank full — at a cost of £15.25. See the attached receipt, and note that the
time of purchase is 14:12, about two and a half hours after I rented the car at 11:45 (i.e. at exactly the time you would expect me to reach Mitcheldean). (Also, if you check your records of my previous rentals with you, you will see that I *always* fill up at the end of a rental.)

Please refund the erroneously charged £22.08.

Thanks,

— Mike.

Three days later, I get this:

Dear Mr Taylor

Thank you for your further query to Europcar Customer Services, received on 17th July 2015.

As this receipt does not indicate that the purchase made was for fuel, it is not acceptable as evidence that the vehicle was filled prior to your return.

I am sorry that I am not able to open this case again for review with this receipt.

Regards

Zara PRICE
Europcar UK Group | Customer Services

Now it’s obvious that Zara Price of Europcar UK Group Customer Services knows perfectly well what I spent exactly the right amount of money on in a petrol station at exactly the right distance from my home at exactly the right time. So once more I wrote back immediately:

This is more than a little surprising. Might I ask what you think I spent £15.25 on (the cost of petrol to drive a small car from Heathrow to Mitcheldean) at 14:12 (the time at which one would arrive at Mitcheldean after driving from Heathrow at 11:45)? Perhaps you think that I stopped at that time, and decided for reasons of my own to spend the exact price of the petrol on something else?

It is *perfectly obvious* that the receipt I have sent you is for the petrol which I paid for. Are you going to deliberately steal £22.08 from me? Is it really worth only £22.08 for you to convert a loyal customer into an enemy? Is that what you want.

Last chance. Refund the money or I will be writing about this in public.

This time, I didn’t even get the courtesy of a reply. I followed up once more three weeks later, and a week on from that there is still no reply, so here we are.

The moral is: Europcar will steal money from you, and they will ignore evidence. They care more about grabbing an extra £22 than they do about retaining a customer who has been loyal to them and even advertised their service.

What a terrible disappointment.

21 responses to “How Europcar stole £22.08 from me (and why you shouldn’t rent from them)

  1. Pingback: Consider driving a hire-car home from the airport | The Reinvigorated Programmer

  2. Please give me their email address so I can email to tell them I will never use them in view of their treatment of you. Also, despite the small sum, I would seriously think about taking the matter to one of those “customer complaints” advisors who are in numerous newspapers.

  3. Thanks, Charles. You can reach Europcar’s customer services at customerservicesuk@europcar.com. Please drop a copy of your email into a comment here.

  4. This is what I have just sent them:

    “I have just been made aware of the fact that you refused to refund the £22.08 you overcharged Dr Mike Taylor because you claim he returned his hire car with the petrol tank partially empty, when in fact it was virtually full – and he provided the evidence to you for this. I hire a car from airports from time to time. In view of your failure to compensate Dr Taylor, I will not only make sure I will never use Europcar for car hire, but will also advise all my friends not to use your company as well.

    Professor Charles Oppenheim”

    They have sent me a formal acknowledgement of receipt of the email.

  5. Paul Eckersley

    Hi, Mike

    I read with interest your articles and this one got me pondering. Has a keen supporter of public transport. I wonder if there was a cheaper alternative to your problem I noticed you live in the Forest of Dean, and your nearest big train station is Gloucester, just a quick check I find you could have save at least £50 by using the train to Gloucester and then catch the bus to Mitchledean. Also is that a days hire for the car? I find that hard to believe. I used Enterprise over Christmas and they only charged me £30 per day for a very nice Seat Ibiza Fr, I suspect what they have done is not noted the full tank at your address and charged you for the mileage to and from the pick up point.
    Anyway may your endeavours be fruitful

    Paul Eckersley

  6. But don’t you have the real receipt, which shows what you payed for? I don’t know what it is like in the UK, but here when you pay by card, you get two receipts: one is the invoice from the bank, and the other is the receipt that the seller gives you, showing what you purchased and what the VAT is. From the looks of it, you gave them the first one. Don’t you also have the latter?

  7. Your record keeping is better than mine! I generally trust that what is shown on an invoice is actually billed (and the invoice amount is usually alarming enough, all on its own.)
    Good catch.
    It is astounding they would make a fuss over 22 pounds; it will surely cost them more than this from you alone (obvious to them, given your history with them); I should thyink that in _any_ complaint, right or wrong, a company shoudl bow to the customer just to make them happy… if its reasonable at all (low cost, first time, etc); its just not even worth the time to look into it over such a pittance.

    So, yeah .. screw them, for stealing, and for being idiots.

  8. Thanks for that, Charles.

    Paul, I usually use public transport. But the service to where we live is pretty poor, and depending on the time of day it becomes just prohibitively protracted. The price for a hire is much cheaper if you book it in advance; the occasion documented in this post is when I missed a coach that I’d booked before, and would have had a three-hour wait for the next one.

    Andrei, I might have the other receipt somewhere. I wasn’t particularly careful about it, because I didn’t expect to be defrauded by a major corporation.

    Jeff, I agree that Europcar’s behaviour here is just inexplicable. It’s as though they’re actively trying to drive customers away. Is that worth £22? I wouldn’t have thought so.

  9. Phillip Lord

    Contact your credit card company and ask for a refund. My believe is that under the equal liability provisions of the consumer credit act, you are as entitled to claim a refund from them as you are from the hire company.

    Obviously, this does not constitute legal advice and I know nothing about what I speak off.

  10. Phillip Lord

    Oh, and I would ask them for written evidence showing that the car took 7.72 litres.

  11. Interesting idea, but I don’t want to make my blameless bank pay for Europcar’s fraud.

    Good point about demanding evidence for the 7.72 litres, though.

  12. Why not ask the petrol station for the evidence that the money was spent on petrol? It will keep records for fuel tax purposes.

  13. I checked. I do not have the other receipt, unfortunately. I usually decline when a petrol station offers me a VAT receipt, as I’ve never seen the point in having two receipts for the same transaction. Now of course I know better: you need the second receipt in case an international corporation defrauds you. We live and learn.

  14. Who teaches these people customer service?!?!

    I’m happy for the company rep who so dutifully got your extra 22 pounds. Great job. If I were her boss I’d fire her immediately. Because for those 22 pounds they lost ALL YOUR FUTURE BUSINESS.

    Again who teaches these people? The future value of repeat customer business is ENORMOUS. Repeat business should be considered so important that almost any refund or consideration for an upset customer should not be considered out of bounds. The DEFAULT response to you should have been “I’m sorry you were mis-charged, I’ll remove that from your bill.”

    But these days all that you really see out there is customer disservice. I have lectured my cellular company about how lucky they are that all other cellular companies treat their customers like crap too. (This is in America, cellular service in UK may have options that aren’t thieving liars, I don’t have any information on that.)

  15. Phillip Lord

    Up to you, but that’s the whole point of the consumer credit act. The business relationship between the bank and the company is not your problem, but I am sure that they can recover the money if they choose.

  16. They always warn people to photograph rental cars at pickup and at return to document prior damage and the lack of new damage. Rental companies at various times have been infamous for fraudulently claiming damage. (They seem to have gotten a bit better after years of pushback.)

    Now it seems that it would make sense to take a shot of the fuel pump interface after the final refueling and a shot of the fuel gauge as well. Since everyone has a mobile phone and every mobile phone has a camera, we have entered the age of ubiquitous photography.

  17. What a stupid thing to have to do. But I think you’re right.

  18. Derek Anderson

    A quick search of the old google and I found the terms. If the car was collected from your house then their terms state “· You are responsible for the fuel we use to Deliver and the fuel we use to Collect.” A quick read at these may have saved you the letters back and forth to them. Pretty certain this is not what you want to read but I cant see why you and the rest are moaning if you never took the time to read in the first place.

    https://www.europcar.co.uk/terms-and-conditions/specific-terms-per-country?countrySelector=termsandconditionsblocknewele-44

    Fuel

    · A vehicle from your chosen vehicle group will leave the local Europcar Station with a full tank of fuel.

    · You are responsible for the fuel we use to Deliver and the fuel we use to Collect.

    · Unless you have taken the Full Tank Option you are responsible for leaving the vehicle with a full tank of fuel on collection. If you don’t then we will charge you for fuel used to top up the fuel tank when we have returned it to the Europcar Station (so will include the fuel used by us when we Collect of the vehicle) in line with our refuelling policy.

    · If your collection point is within 5 miles of the local Europcar Station, you will not be charged for any fuel used. Outside of this 5 mile radius you will be charged for all fuel used by us when we Collect of the vehicle in line with our refuelling policy.

    · You can find full details of the refuelling policy under section 18 (‘What is the Fuel Policy?’) of the Europcar Terms and Conditions of Hire

    · We reserve the right to suspend, cancel or amend our Deliver & Collect service at any time without giving prior notice.

    · We reserve the right not to Deliver a car if you fail to comply with any of these conditions.

  19. Derek,

    It’s 15 miles from our home to Gloucester. A recent small car will tend to get 60-75 mpg or better, so we’re talking about a quarter to a fifth of a gallon of petrol — about 1 litre.

  20. Roshan Wadhwani

    Hey Mike! guess what I’ve had the exact same ordeal with Europcar and coincidentally it’s the same zara price who’s been corresponding with me. I did ask them to send me a gas station receipt to establish the rate and quantity of fuel they’ve ‘filled on my behalf’ and they’ve stopped responding ever since. Left with no choice i’ve gone ahead and disputed the charge with my credit card company. Do let me know if there’s been any progress on your claim

  21. Hi, Roshan, I’m afraid I don’t remember now what the outcome was of this — it was well over a year ago, after all. Sorry.

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