Over Easter we visited the Apple Isle and hired a car from Europcar at Launceston. We collected the car at night (about 8pm on 15/4/2019) and returned it before the Airport Europcar counter had opened for the day (at about 6am on 23/4/2019).
The rental agreement provided to us on hire of the vehicle indicated that there was no damage, other than that which would be considered fair wear and tear, however the vehicle was not overly clean and the front windscreen was covered in insect residues (similar but far worse than the photo below). We also noted and took photos of a number of minor scratches and dents which were present on the vehicle soon after its collection from the airport.
Like always when we hire a car, we washed the car and returned it with a full tank. We always wash the car to ensure that when we take photos on its return the condition of the car can be clearly seen.
As the service desk was unattended and advised when the car was collected, we placed the car keys into the key return box on our return. We also took photos, using flash photography when the car was parked in the nominated car park and the sun was yet to rise.
Today we received a Initial Damage Notification from Europcar, which I assume is the first step in relation to Europcar claiming payment for damage caused under a vehicle’s hire.
Europcar have claimed that during our hire of their vehicle, a very small (insignificant) chip occurred on the windscreen of the vehicle. Here is the photograph indicating the alleged damage caused while the car was in our possession.
It is worth notiing that the alleged chips are very surface in nature, there is no indication that the chips have cracks associated with them and it is estimated that the largest of the three has a maximum diameter of about 1.6mm (scaling off the finger in the image provided by Europcar and assuming the finger is 20mm in diameter) and does not affect the roadworthy status or visibility through the windscreen. The image may also show clear insect residues which could also look like a small chip…something I won’t be able to personally verify.
Europcar provides information on fair wear and tear (in the form of a guide outside the T&Cs) after the vehicle is collected. This guide is emailed to the customer. This states the following is excluded:from fair wear and tear.
I was surprised that we received this notification as the car was in the same condition as when we picked up the car and at no time was a noise heard which would lead to a stone making chip in the front windscreen as claimed by Europcar. It is worth noting that at night the vehicle was parked off road and unlikely to be damaged by another party.
The condition of the car on return is shown in the following photographs. The full resolution photographs do not show an visible chips in the windscreen as claimed by Europcar. It is worth noting that with a flash, any significant chips in the windscreen would reflect the flash light resulting in a bright spot from the reflected light on the image…
It is also worth noting that we had a heavily discounted car hire rate through a car hire broker in the US of about AUD31 per day…which is about 2/3 the cheapest rate we noticed advertised by Europcar for their micro sized car hire vehicles (which incidentally is about. AUD47/day). I wonder if the claim is to increase their profit on this car hire?
We also took out separate domestic travel insurance recommended by choice as it was significantly cheaper than the profitable (to the car hire companies) damage cover products offered by car companies to reduce the excess.
We will be challenging the damage claim made by Europcar in the coming days including seeking advice from a local windscreen repair business or a reputable independent mechanic which does roadworthy certificates in relation to the extent and risk of the damage. I suspect that the alleged damage, even though it was not caused by us, would be seen as superficial and not worthy of repair, not affect the driveability nor roadworthiness of the vehicle.
Should Europcar still proceed with making a claim against us, we will take it to the Office of Fair Trading in Queensland and ultimately the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. There is also the opportunity to lodge a complaint with AFIA which we may also peruse.
If anyone has challenged alleged damage of a hire car and has any advice in relation to how to approach Europcar with this frivolous/unreasonable claim, it would be appreciated.
I will also keep the forum posted on the progression of our dealings with Europcar.
(This does leave us with a bit of a sour taste in our mouth with Europcar as the last time we used them they overcharged us (see other post on this forum) which took considerable time and effort to resolve in order to receive a refund…and looks like again considerable time and effort will be required to respond to their recent damage claim allegation.)