Car hire comparison sites will start including all extra costs in initial price quotes following regulatory action by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which intends to do the same with hire firms abroad.
The CMA took enforcement action against travel agent P&P Associates and price comparison sites Affordable Car Hire and Flexiblecarhire.com, which it found to be offering price quotes without including extra costs and fees that the customer would include as part of the hire.
The regulator said the three businesses have now agreed, in full cooperation, to include all charges and essential information in the upfront quote, including deposits, fuel surcharges, young driver fees, out-of-hours pick up charges and what insurance covers.
The enforcement action came on the back of an industry-wide review started by the CMA last year. The CMA said as a result of the review, 30 websites improved their price quote transparency.
The CMA said it will now launch direct action against foreign car hire firms offering quotes to Britons online.
Michael Grenfell, CMA executive director for enforcement, said: “It is important people know what they’re signing up to online when hiring a car. Prices must be transparent and include all compulsory costs so that people can find the deal that’s best for them.
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“The CMA’s work over the past year has vastly improved the sector and brought the majority of sites offering car hire in line with consumer protection law. UK customers can now be more confident that what they see is what they will pay.”
He added: “Just because a business is not on UK soil doesn’t mean the law doesn’t apply when it sells in the UK. British consumers have a right to protection under consumer law and the CMA will work to ensure they receive it.”
The CMA’s website has published transparency guidelines for car rental firms:
- Firms should implement procedures in order to limit the risk of showing inaccurate prices, and should constantly monitor this.
- They should check prices provided by suppliers, and have a policy to deal with suppliers who repeatedly provide inaccurate pricing. If the supplier does not comply, a firm should stop listing their offers.
- Quotes provided through a search should include all unavoidable fees and costs, and the ranking of offers should be on the basis of total eventual cost.
- Customers must be “clearly and prominently” told about deposits, extra costs like snow chains and child seats and the amount covered by collision waivers. This information should be not more than one click away from the initial price quote.