Car hire scandal: Europcar staff receive €4.50 each time they spot 'damage'
The French car rental company, Europcar, one of the world's biggest car hire firms, is paying its staff for cheating customers over "damaged" cars, a whistleblower has claimed.
Every time, a Europcar agent inspects a car for the company, they are rewarded with a €4.50 bonus every time they flag a car as damaged, even if the damage report is not actually warranted.
A large number of customers have been reporting that they have been charge huge fees for barely non-existent damage after renting their car.
Europcar is also being accused of systematically overbilling over half a million of their customers amounting to least €33.5m in repairs over many years.
These car hire companies get very substantial discounts as it is from buying cars from the car manufactures. They also do not have to pay VRT so they can make huge profits.
For example, despite these huge profits, back in June 2014, the Australian Federal Court ruled that a Europcar franchisee (now corporate owned) in Tasmania had engaged in unconscionable conduct and made false or misleading representations when charging customers for damage to hire vehicles. The former franchisee owner was fined $264,000 AUD.
According to all reports, alleged dishonest practices seen at Europcar are also endemic across the entire car hire industry.
The Europcar whistleblower has alleged that staff can significantly boost their annual income by sending cars for repair jobs, saying:
"The best teams find new damage on one in five returned vehicles.
"Agents earn £4 per vehicle for spotting damage. Yet some scratches I can barely see. I was not surprised to find we have been raided [by Trading Standards]. Europcar should be held to account for ripping off its customers. It is dishonest and unacceptable.
"Counter staff are expected to sell extra insurances or vehicle upgrades to one in three customers. If they don't meet their targets, they are fired."
Europcar has declined to comment on the allegations by the whistleblower. Jason Moseley, director of the National Body Repair Association which represents repair firms, said that paying staff for spotting damages is a potential conflict of interest resulting in unnecessary repairs being made. He said:
"This does not happen at repair garages so it should not be happening at car hire firms, it is likely to be causing issues."
The hire car giant is facing police investigation but they are not the only company under scrutiny. Research also shows that another major firm, Avis, may be charging its customers over the odds for repairs on hire cars.
Last month, one man who hired an Audi A4 from Avis at Heathrow Airport was charged more than £700 (€780) to cover damage to the rear bumper but when pictures of the damaged bumper were run through the repair aggregator website in the UK, whocanfixmycar.com, it provided a quote from a national body repair firm for £250 (€280).
The website also produced quotes for similar repairs to other vehicles for prices ranging from £150 (€170) to £436 (€486).
An Avis Budget spokesman insisted the prices it charges its customers were in line with repair industry standards.
(As always, if you or a family member are considering buying a used car, don’t buy until you run a car check report with MyVehicle.ie where you will find out the true history of the vehicle.)