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Who regulates car hire?

Thousands of Brits hire cars every year on their travels, but if something goes wrong or if there’s an issue to resolve, who do they turn to?

If you find yourself in such a situation, you’ll understandably want to know that you’re protected, and that support is available.

Car hire firms are regulated by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) in the UK and by the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) in the EU.

What is the BVRLA?

The BVRLA act as a trade body for those involved in the rental and leasing of vehicles for leisure and business purposes.

A Code of Conduct sets out high industry expectations for member firms in relation to aspects such as customer service, vehicle quality, clear pricing and transparent terms and conditions.

In addition, the Code also covers elements around how vehicles can be reserved, the sales and contractual processes that are used, and how the firms handle complaints.

This is designed to provide you with reassurance, as you can easily check and query any issues as they arise in line with the Code.

When to make a complaint

Common issues in the sector include overbooking by car hire firms and customers being hit with unexpected charges – in both instances you could approach the regulator if the complaints procedure with the hire firm has been exhausted.

In 2020, the number of complaints about rental companies made via the BVRLA decreased by 27% to 1216 – likely as a result of the pandemic – and down from a high of 1676 the year previously.

However, car clubs saw a 109% increase in the number of complaints between 2019 and 2020, more than doubling from 55 to 115.

The BVRLA has clearance from the government to act as an alternative dispute resolution body and will independently investigate complaints involving member companies, before ruling on whether or not a firm has broken the Code.

When renting a vehicle in the UK, you should always ask the rental firm if they are a member of the BVRLA – some will display it clearly on their online channels and at the hire desk, while others may not.

What can you expect from rental firms?

The BVRLA has hundreds of members in the UK, and fortunately for drivers, the major car rental firms including Hertz, Avis, Europcar and Sixt are all signed up.

If you’re using car-sharing services such as Zip Car and Enterprise, you can also contact the BVRLA to settle a dispute.

Under the Code, a rental firm has a responsibility to assess your needs and to provide the most suitable vehicle they have available.

They’ll take into account elements such as how much luggage you have, the type of journeys you wish to make and the number of passengers.

Rental firms must also ensure that vehicles are in a roadworthy condition and that a minimum level of insurance is provided from an authorised insurer, unless you agree to provide your own cover.

rental company sign

What about if you’re renting a vehicle in Europe?

Unlike the BVRLA, the ECRCS has a limited number of members, namely: Europcar, Enterprise, Avis, Budget, Maggiore, Hertz, Thrifty, Dollar, Alamo, National, Firefly and Sixt.

To use the free service, you must have rented a vehicle in a different European country from that of your main residence.

If you live in the UK and were to rent a car in France, for example, you would rely on the ECRCS, whereas if you rented a vehicle in the UK and then drove it to France, that would be a matter for the BVRLA.

Note that you will need to go through a rental company’s internal complaints procedure prior and have their final answer, before approaching the ECRCS.

You’ll also be expected to provide the evidence to cover your side of the story, such as documentation and images.

The research was conducted on 30th July 2021.

Date Created: 31/08/2021


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