- Created on Sunday, 07 October 2012 15:42
A Daily Mail exposée last week added weight to emails received by algarvedailynews about sharp practices at Goldcar, a Spanish car rental company operating at Lisbon, Oporto and Faro airports.
Although the Money Mail’s article by Dan Hyde refers to sharp practice at Spanish airports, holidaymakers travelling to Portugal would do well to be aware of the tactics used by the company to increase revenue per rental.
The report stated that holidaymakers to Spain are being told they cannot drive away a hire car they have booked unless they pay another €100. Families arriving at Spanish airports say they are being held to ransom.
John Renwick, 85 and his wife reached Palma de Majorca airport and queued for 75 minutes at Goldcar’s pick-up point. ‘There was a huge line and everyone was arguing with the staff’ ‘When we got to the front of the line, we were told to pay £61 for extra insurance or to get out of the queue.
‘I could easily have arranged for my own insurance to cover it much more cheaply had I known before I went, it seemed most unfair. ‘We were forced to pay because we needed the car.’
A Goldcar spokesman says: ‘This should all be explained in the terms and conditions Mr Renwick received from the agency he made the reservation with.’
Hard sales tactics at the car hire counter are not new. Firms know families with young children and pensioners are easy targets when they arrive in hot countries after long, tiring journeys.
But this is the first time Money Mail has uncovered threats that travellers will be refused a car unless they pay extra.
Bob Atkinson, travel expert at holidays website Travelsupermarket.com, says: ‘It is concerning that an increasing number of Britons renting cars in holiday destinations are being force sold insurance at car pick up points.
‘The forced sale at the rental desk of a product that is not compulsory is unacceptable.’
Goldcar is one of the cheaper car hire rental firms in Spain, and operates out of most of the country’s major airports. On its website the cost of hiring a VW Golf for a one-week holiday is typically £100.
Travellers reserve the car for a set price on Goldcar’s website, and then pay when they pick it up. They are told the price of the reservation includes VAT and local taxes, unlimited mileage, collision damage waiver insurance without excess, car passenger insurance and theft cover.
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But despite this seemingly comprehensive cover, travelers, many whom have endured long queues to collect their vehicle, are being told they cannot take the car unless they pay an extra ‘super insurance’ or have £1,000 held on their credit card.
Collision damage waiver insurance protects car hire drivers from paying for damage that happens to their vehicle. Often it comes with a sky-high excess, typically of more than £1,000, which drivers must pay before being able to make a claim.
However, car hire companies also offer extra optional insurance to cover this excess, often starting at around £15 a day.
Goldcar is telling drivers that they must either pay this insurance or have their credit card swiped so that the firm can see if the driver has £1,000 it can take should they have an accident. Drivers who don’t have £1,000 spare on their card are told to pay for the extra insurance or they won’t be able to have a car, even if they have alternative insurance in place.
The €1,000 may take a while to be unblocked after your holiday rental period:
‘The deposit is returned at the end of the rental period after the vehicle has been inspected and compliance with the Agreement’s general and specific terms and conditions has been verified. For that purpose, the deposit may be retained for up to 15 days after the vehicle has been returned.’
Firms have long been accused of scaring tired and weary families into paying for this cover.
The excess cover should be optional, and a number of independent insurance companies offer much cheaper policies, costing as little as £20, which drivers can book before they go on holiday
Money Mail has received a flurry of letters from readers who complain they have been told they won’t get a car if they don’t pay the cover. In numerous cases, rental managers are refusing to look at a customer’s existing insurance policy, even if it specifically covers excess. Travellers have told of heated rows at check-in desks.
Those who have managed to argue they don’t need to pay the insurance have had €1,200 frozen on their credit card in case damage needs to be paid for.
Specialist insurers such as dailyexcess.com, insurance4car hire.com and icarhireinsurance.com offer much cheaper prices to drivers who want full protection.
For example, insurance4carhire charges £49.99 for an annual policy.
A spokesman for Goldcar says: ‘Goldcar takes these claims very seriously and we are continuously looking for ways to improve the information provided to the customer.’
The Daily Mail’s article should act as a warning - low rates can often mean low service levels and unexpectedly high charges.
The standard insurance for Portugal appears only to cover external damage to the car body:
‘The damage insurance (CDW) does not include damage to tyres, wheel rims, hubcaps, interior of the vehicle, wing mirrors, rear view mirror, car glass, locks, undercarriage, clutch, engine, sump, catalytic converter and radiator. Also not included are battery recharge, loss of keys, tow truck, taxi transfer after an accident, deposit for vehicle replacement and compensation for lost rental days while the vehicle is being repaired. It is possible to take out additional insurance to partially or fully cover these exclusions.'
FULL TANK FUEL POLICY
Juan and Pedro Alcaraz the original owners of Europa Rent a Car, which now trade as Goldcar founded the company in 1985 with the aim of creating a car hire company that specialised in the tourist market.
Goldcar is rightly or wrongly attributed with being not only the worst abuser of the full/empty car hire fuel policy, which people hate and avoid at all costs, but the creator.
DISCOUNT FULL/EMPTY OPTION (Only for rental periods of 3 days or less)
'Customers who choose this option pay for a full fuel tank at the Goldcar facilities, at the market price for fuel of the type recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer.
Customers are refunded for the amount of fuel remaining in the tank when they return the vehicle to Goldcar, according to the eighths of tank recorded on the vehicle’s fuel gauge.
This option only applies to vehicles hired for a rental period of three days or less.
The ORDINARY FULL/EMPTY option will apply to any additional days not included in this option.'
However savvy the traveller, when faced with a list of extras, or no car, combined with travel weariness may force the most resilient of holidaymakers to cave in and pay up.
Ask for the 'Complaints Book.' and is the staff refuse to produce one, threaten to call the police, the airports are bristling with officers only too willing to help.
‘How to avoid car hire potholes’ is a useful section on the Mail’s website
Tripadvisor has posts from very dissatisfied customers: