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DTMark

Car Rental Problems

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Hoping to get some general wisdom:

My brother rented a diesel car from Europcar in May 2015.

He managed to put petrol in it. He noticed this when driving off the forecourt and stopped within a few hundred metres, the engine had begun to lose power at that point. It would not start again.

Having notified the hire company they then sent someone to collect the car, empty the tank and refill it, and delivered it back to him. This was all done promptly in the space of several hours. The car drove normally after that.

I'd have thought he would have been charged pretty well immediately for the cost of doing that.

He heard nothing at all until yesterday when a rather ambiguous letter arrived:

Damage: Mechanical Incorrect refuelling Broken

Dear Sir / Madam,

Following your recent rental as detailed above, our vehicle was returned having sustained additional damage.

Once the cost of repairs has been established an invoice will follow accordingly to the above address, this will then be charged to the credit/debit card used at the time of the rental.

If you require the invoice to be sent to an alternative address please contact us within 10 working days.

If there are any issues with the above then please contact us within 10 working days at the above address, or alternatively call the number stated at the top of the letter.

I suspect it to be highly unlikely, though possible, that the car has not been used at all since May and most likely that others have hired it in the meantime.

I've had a look at the Ts and Cs and it's perfectly reasonable for the company to expect to be fully compensated for the cost of collecting, emptying, refuelling and re-delivering the car though no figures are quoted - neither in the Ts and Cs, nor the letter.

The letter implies "additional damage". Which might mean: the engine was damaged. However rather a long time has elapsed since then. If the mileage on the car now is the same as it was on return then the company have a claim, if not, it is a stretch to claim for any subsequent engine damage as it could have been caused by anyone.

I shall type up a letter to clarify what they anticipate charging for. If they clarify that it's just the cost of the refuelling, then that's fine, although I'd expect it to be "reasonable" - maybe £500 would be a fair limit.

However the letter is vague to the point that it more or less says "We shall determine what we would like to charge you and then do exactly that, and pop a copy in the post for your information".

Does he have any particular rights, for instance, to notification of the amount before debit - could be £500 for refuelling or £7000 for a new engine - best of luck debiting that amount from his account ;)

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I rent a lot of cars through work (spent about 25k with Hertz in 3 years) and it's a very risky business as the charges can be astronomical if any damage is sustained (pretty much up to the value of the car + lost rental whilst off the road).

Somewhere in the T&C it will say damage will be charged to his card, but what they need to provide in return is evidence of the damage when he returned it.

They can be slow, so it may be that the damage was noticed at the time, sent for repair and the letter has taken time to work through their system.

Best of luck as the rental companies can be absolute sharks when it comes to claiming money.

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At worst, if its more than a few hundred quid, I'd tell them to sod off...Drain the tank, give it a blast, should be fine...worst case scenario...cancel the card he paid with...

When I put a tenners worth of petrol in my diesel a few years ago, I topped it up with diesel, and it was fine..

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Thing is that after the car was returned to him, he then drove it for two days, and it was perfectly fine.

I don't know enough about cars, specifically diesel engines, to know what damage can be caused by driving a car with one for about 500 metres with petrol in the tank.

The final bill may indeed just be for the refuelling, and someone dropped the proverbial ball with the accounting as I'd have expected that to be charged within days of return. Seems it was missed?

Or, it could be "anything" as the letter is so vague. I'll type up a reply that he can send tomorrow seeking clarification.

Frankly I'd be surprised if he has £50 in his account, let alone £500.

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This is exactly the sort of thing that Honest John would deal with. Ask him.

In my totally uninformed view, I'd suspect that the hire firm are on shaky ground if, having known about the misfuelling, they opted not to have any inspection done until months (and presumably several thousand miles) later. Maybe they now have a car which won't run properly, so what. The obvious question would be "Prove it was me who caused the damage".

Edit unless it was simply for the misfuelling rectification, in which case fair enough. The phrase 'additional damage' sounds ominous though.

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This is exactly the sort of thing that Honest John would deal with. Ask him.

In my totally uninformed view, I'd suspect that the hire firm are on shaky ground if, having known about the misfuelling, they opted not to have any inspection done until months (and presumably several thousand miles) later. Maybe they now have a car which won't run properly, so what. The obvious question would be "Prove it was me who caused the damage".

Edit unless it was simply for the misfuelling rectification, in which case fair enough. The phrase 'additional damage' sounds ominous though.

That's my take on it.

The description of the damage:

Mechanical Incorrect refuelling Broken

..is a corker. I assume that means "in the category called Mechanical, the issue is: Incorrect Refuelling" - the "broken" bit is meaningless. What is broken - there's the question :)

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This guy seems to have been charged 300 EUR for the same mistake which seems more than reasonable.

http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/whatever-you-do-do-not-rent-a-car-with-europcar.cfm

This may all be "nothing" and the bill is £300, which I'd consider perfectly reasonable given that the time from calling them to the time the car was back with him was about four hours, which is really rather exemplary.

It's the vagueness of the letter that concerns me and that the implication is "we'll just take the money and then let you know how much it was".

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This guy seems to have been charged 300 EUR for the same mistake which seems more than reasonable.

http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/whatever-you-do-do-not-rent-a-car-with-europcar.cfm

This may all be "nothing" and the bill is £300, which I'd consider perfectly reasonable given that the time from calling them to the time the car was back with him was about four hours, which is really rather exemplary.

It's the vagueness of the letter that concerns me and that the implication is "we'll just take the money and then let you know how much it was".

Once they take money out without justification (they try it on, and claim for a new engine for instance), it would be a bugger trying to get it back

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Really complicated. They've got lots of cards in their favour. Anyway:

Obviously, did he take of collision damage waiver? - if so, there might be something in that.

Does he have a car - his personal insurance might have something about hire cars. Same with household insurance (probably not, but worth a check)

UK or Europe? (can possibly change things a bit)

Paid for by credit card? If so, he might get some help there (either through consumer credit act or some freebe insurance you get with CCs)

If he doesn't get traction with above, state that the car wasn't damaged when he stopped (possibly true) and all the damage was done by the hire company trying it out before it was drained or that it wasn't drained properly. You might be able to get someone official to state the above in a nice letter (say, main dealer. Don't know how you'd go about it). Ask for reams of data from the garage that drained it (normal procedure for getting car off transporter to the draining bay, % of petrol in the tank, etc) and the garage that fixed it (damage type, probable cause), etc.

If they ask for the world and he's not got anything from above, try to explain the situation. Did the car have a stupid 'diesel' sticker on the fuel cap? Was the diesel fuel explained to him by the staff. Pretend he's really stupid and doesn't know about diesel if they didn't make it clear to him. Perhaps he is really stupid, which might help (not really). State that he was led to believe that there was a maximum cost of... (£500 say), either at the rental shop or by the person who collected the car. All this is very naughty and not likely to work, though...

If all else fails, try negotiating. Might work.

If he gets a small bill through (<£500) consider himself lucky.

If he gets a big bill through consider speaking with CAB.

Vagueness of the letter is probably dictated by the T&Cs of the rental (lawyer talk - ie, don't say anything that you might want to change later). Dunno. I don't think they've got your brother's feelings in mind particularly.

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Thing is that after the car was returned to him, he then drove it for two days, and it was perfectly fine.

I don't know enough about cars, specifically diesel engines, to know what damage can be caused by driving a car with one for about 500 metres with petrol in the tank.

The final bill may indeed just be for the refuelling, and someone dropped the proverbial ball with the accounting as I'd have expected that to be charged within days of return. Seems it was missed?

Or, it could be "anything" as the letter is so vague. I'll type up a reply that he can send tomorrow seeking clarification.

Frankly I'd be surprised if he has £50 in his account, let alone £500.

You`re better off calling them without admitting any liabliity. Be courteous and ask what the usual process is for something like this when it happens, reiterating that your brother drove it for two days afterwards without any problems.

It is probably a standard letter sent out for all sorts of differing circumstances, and your brother will be billed admin charges, refueling costs and extra labour costs for the call out. Could be a couple few hundred £`s.

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I am sure this has happened more than once. :blink:

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Think I would cancel the card and if when the bill eventually arrives, if it's a pisstake, make them what most people would consider a reasonable offer then, if they didn't accept, ignore everything except a county court claim.

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I think its bloody cheeky of them to expect your brother to pay whatever they say...If its a lot (sort of new engine money), I'd get an expert in demanding to see the car...

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Cancel the credit card he paid for it on..

What is the consumers position regarding companies taiking money off credit cards or bank accounts like this?

Is there some way to block them? Once the money leaves the account how do you get it back.

Presumably the situation differs depending upon whether it's a credit card or a bank account.

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Thing is that after the car was returned to him, he then drove it for two days, and it was perfectly fine.

I don't know enough about cars, specifically diesel engines, to know what damage can be caused by driving a car with one for about 500 metres with petrol in the tank.

The final bill may indeed just be for the refuelling, and someone dropped the proverbial ball with the accounting as I'd have expected that to be charged within days of return. Seems it was missed?

Or, it could be "anything" as the letter is so vague. I'll type up a reply that he can send tomorrow seeking clarification.

Frankly I'd be surprised if he has £50 in his account, let alone £500.

I know plenty about cars and specifically diesels ,the chances of causing any serious damage over that distance is next to nothing ,if there was any damage it would have certainly have been apparent over the next couple of days

The sort of damage that can be caused by this sort of thing would have thrown codes and probably put the engine into limp mode on any modern cdi engined diesel car before it cause any lasting damage

The part with the most potential for damage would be the high pressure injection pump as the fuel is the lubrication for pump ,petrol has no lubrication properties but it would not have run on pure petrol and it probably would not have run on a mix for the full five hundred yards as it would have had a full fuel filter of clean diesel which would have slowly been contaminated as the clean fuel being used was replaced with contaminated fuel

if the car run fine after it was delivered back you can be pretty sure it had no damage ,if you have proof of mileage when returned and there's a difference to the milage when the car was repaired/now i would say they have not got a case

Edit : cancel the card then the decision to pay up is your brothers

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The tone of the letter you describe has a decidedly generic feel to it.

The part about "mechanical incorrect fuelling broken" almost looks like somebody was supposed to delete as appropriate.

It is probably the same letter they send to anyone and everyone who incurs an additional cost of this nature.

As someone else said, the local office it was rented from will probably know the details.. Give them a call just for your own peace of mind.

Only if they say something unreasonable or unexpected would I start to consider more drastic options.

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choose your moment carefully before showing him this article in the Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/sep/12/9000-bill-misfueling-enterprise-hire-car

I did say in my initial response they're absolute sharks.

I returned a car with a scuffed alloy/damaged tyre and an empty tank. The total bill including admin came to just shy of €1000. I'd hadbthe car less than 24 hours. As I said in my OP you're liable for the full value of the car plus lost rental plus a hefty dose of admin charges.

You should cancel the credit card and ask them to invoice you. Although technically if you do that you're breaking the T&C and will likely incur more admin charge on top. I wouldn't advise anyone to privately hire a car. It's a very, very risky business.

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Thank you for your recent letter dated 9 September relating to a car I hired from you in May 2015.

Whilst in possession of the car I did inadvertently put petrol into the tank, rather than diesel.

Realising my error, I stopped within 500 metres and contacted you. You kindly arranged for the car to be collected promptly, the tank emptied and refilled, and delivered back to me.

The contents of your letter are somewhat vague and mention the word "damage". There was, so far as I was aware, no damage caused to the vehicle; the car drove perfectly for the remainder of the time that I had it and almost four months have now elapsed since the incident.

I understand that you shall wish to charge me for the cost of the labour and the replacement fuel, which is perfectly reasonable.

I would therefore appreciate it if you can clarify that this is indeed what you intend to charge for, and the amount, in advance of my payment of same.

This is essential in order to ensure that I am able to make available the necessary funds to meet said payment and given the elapsed time I would imagine that the cost of the incident described is known and can be communicated at your earliest convenience.

Yours Faithfully

My brother did call them, and they agreed it would just be the cost of the above, but still couldn't or wouldn't say how much it would be. Which seems odd, as they should know by now. They must have paid the garage that did the work.

So I typed up the above - let's see what that brings.

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This

I'm a bit nervous about their vagueness.

I'd be inclined to write back and say something like "please confirm the amount in order that I can confirm where the invoice will need to be sent or payment taken from"

In the mean time I'd be very tempted to cancel the card as well. See what the bill actually is first, then if necessary get legal assistance.

If they are making a silly claim I would probably want proof of the damage, and as several people on this thread seem confident that no damage would likely have been caused, an expert witness (or two) prepared to say as much in a court.

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