Rental car companies having access to your credit card account

Last year I rented a car from Avis in Holland for several weeks. I accumulated several speeding fines and received them in the mail. I paid all of them in November 2015.

In March 2016 I received several invoices and copies of invoices from Avis and noted that my credit card had been accessed twice by them. They had taken out a $67 administration fee for sending me my fines. I was not aware of this fee as it had not been mentioned verbally, nor had I, like everyone else who hires a car, read the extensive fine print on the contract. They also took out a second administration fee together with $120 for one of the speeding fines that I had paid.
I also received paperwork for a fine with my name on it for a car that I had not hired.

And so the emails and phone calls started. I firstly had to ring the Dutch traffic authority to check that my fines had been paid. They all had been paid by me in November. There was no payment by Avis for any fine.

Many polite and professional emails and phone calls to Avis over two months were made by me. I repeatedly received, usually after waiting several weeks, a reply email that did not actually address all of my concerns, but just a reminder that I had agreed to pay administrative fees when I signed the contract. No reference to the fact that they were charging me for a fine I’d already paid. There was no reference to the receipt of paperwork for an admin fee for another car that I had not even hired.

In the end, I approached my bank and we started the process through Visa. The Bendigo bank staff were very helpful and said that they were following up similar issues for others who had hired cars recently. Apparently it was a common occurance. Within a week Visa notified me that they would refund my money.

The main worry I have is not so much the lack of professionalism by the Avis, but that they accessed my card nearly 6 months after the car hire. How is this legally possible? Is there a time limit?

It also follows that there is a problem with the way that car rental companies quickly get you to sign their wordy contracts before you can take possession of the car without any real verbal disclosure of your obligations and the associated costs.


I had a bad experience with Europcar out of Heathrow. The rental was arranged via a travel agent here in Australia.
I was offered a ‘complimentary’ upgrade as a ‘previous customer’ and was asked to initial the contract which showed ‘how much I would be saving.’ On returning the car I was asked to pay the upgrade fee. I challenged the fee but was told I had agreed the fee by initialling the contract. I asked to see a manager and instructed them that I was refusing them permission to make further charges on my credit card until the matter had been investigated. I then cancelled my credit card. The investigation proved inconclusive as they were unable to locate the agent who had offered me the upgrade. The matter remains outstanding, I no longer use Europcar.

@andrew.payne @roelfaukema we’ve had a lot of reports of dodgy practices by car rental companies, from extra charges to poor customer service. The ACCC agrees - the industry needs to pull its socks up.

We’ve given special mention to lengthy and complicated contracts in our recent submission to the government’s review of the Australian Consumer Law. You’re absolutely right - when you’re at the counter after a long flight it’s really difficult to make an informed decision.

We’ve also got quite a few articles up on the website on car hire that are great for anybody going on holidays:


My 22 year old son recently hired a car in NZ for a month. Three weeks in he notified the rental company by phone of an accident, the car had to be towed and he was offered a replacement car. He took a bus from Hamilton to Auckland were he was told that they won’t give him another car, the offer had not been authorized. He had to stay overnight to wait for the next bus back and continue his travels by bus. Thank god, the Travel Insurance paid for his excess as well as the bus trips. After his return home the car rental company accessed his credit card twice - once for a NZ$50 administration fee for a speeding fine that he paid, another NZ$46 for returning the car with only 3/4 of fuel. According to the fine print of the rental agreement it is up to their discretion whether you get a refund for the unused rental period, another car or nothing at all.

I had a rental in Canada in September 2016, and crossed the Golden Ears toll bridge near Vancouver twice. I was able to pay the toll using credit card on the internet which I did within hours of each crossing, and I received email acknowledgments from the toll operator for the payment.

Shortly after returning to Australia I saw my Credit Card had been debited by Hertz for toll violations, charging for the toll plus an administrative fee of CAD$14.00. Before I responded I checked the receipt against the car registration (it was correct) so I advised Hertz and sent them a copy of the email receipt asking for a refund. Their response was to request the proof of payment in a different electronic format, but by now I was being annoyed by their attitude so I told them to waste their own time and check with Treo to validate the payment (which they should have done anyway).

So the next thing I did was to advise my credit card provider of an un-authorised transaction, and sent them the same validation that Hertz would not accept. After a month or so the transaction was reversed.

I feel that rental operators see billing for violations as a profit centre and deliberately make it difficult to dispute charges. There must be plenty of victims who won’t spend the time and effort to dispute the charges and let it go through.

Also, with rental cars I always take a series of images on my phone before driving away, to establish beyond doubt the condition of the car at the beginning of the rental. I’ve found Hertz (and Avis) very slack in recording pre-existing damage and minutely examine the car on return.

Using this ploy they are able to recover the cost of damage many times over.


More dodgy rental car stories, this time featuring Europecar:

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As others have noted, it is essential that you video/photograph all existing damage before you drive the vehicle. If there is any significant damage, you should also contact the hire company before you unlock the doors.

This can be tricky if the lighting is poor, such as in a poorly-lit parking area, and really difficult if the car is parked outdoors in bad weather ( heavy rain or snow makes it practically impossible ).

Video/photograph the vehicle again when you return it. This especially important when you return to an unsupervised location, eg airport drop-off parking.

Less than amusing anecdote: I was returning a hire car at a railway station in Canada. I’d checked with the company that the return location would be open. On arrival it was closed. I phoned the company and asked where I should leave the car ( I had a train to catch and no time to take the car elsewhere ). They told me to “park as close to the kiosk as possible”. I asked if that included parking illegally. They said “yes, put it right at the door of the kiosk”. I parked the car on the footpath, right at the doorway of their kiosk. The car probably got ticketed, but there were no extra charges on my card.


I hired a van from Europcar for a few hours last year. No hassle at all, but remembering Europcar’s strife from 2013 I made sure the agent knew I had photos of the van and all the minor pre-existing dings, same when I returned it. I suspect if they know you have the photos they are less likely to be dodgy.