26 September 2023

Hiring vehicles can be rental as anything

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The Commissioner for Consumer Protection has been receiving increased complaints and inquiries over the hiring of rental vehicles.

Commissioner, Gary Newcombe said with travel restricted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been greater interest in hiring rental vehicles to explore Western Australia.

“Unfortunately things don’t always go to plan, with new figures showing we received 183 complaints and 251 inquiries from consumers about the vehicle hire industry in the last two years, mostly to do with disputes over refunds and payment,” Mr Newcombe said.

“Consumer Protection recently learned of a couple of holidaymakers whose rental cars had been stolen and they were being pursued for the full cost to replace the vehicles by the hire company, which claimed they had failed to adequately secure the keys.”

Mr Newcombe said it was important for consumers to know their rights and understand their obligations when hiring a vehicle.

“Our advice is to shop around and read the hire contract carefully before you sign,” he said.

“The contract outlines rental, insurance and extra costs, and may have limits on your use of the vehicle and in-house insurance,” he said.

“Rather than paying for a car rental company’s excess reduction, a cheaper option may be to buy extra insurance from your own insurer or travel insurance provider.

“If there’s loss or damage, then you would pay the excess to the car rental company and claim reimbursement from the insurer.”

The Commissioner said some vehicle hire contracts might include you agreeing for unlimited charges being made to your credit card, so it was important to find out in what circumstances and amounts this might occur.

“Before signing a contract, it is important to check for damage both inside and outside of the vehicle,” he said.

“Take photos of any damage and ensure it is recorded in the contract and counter-signed by the company representative.

“Ensure there is a full tank of petrol before you drive away and find out whether you need to bring the vehicle back with a full tank and what the charge is per litre if you don’t.”

Mr Newcombe said upon returning the car, it was smart to ask for a written statement from the company noting that the car was returned undamaged.

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