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Help needed : car rental dispute (Read 6895 times)

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Help needed : car rental dispute
Feb 8th, 2009 at 5:55pm
Dear all,

First of all, I’m French, so all my apologies for the mistakes you’ll find in the following and also for the length of my text. I contact this forum in search for lawyers able to give me any advice about Scottish law.
Last early September, I made a wonderful trip through Scotland, meeting extraordinary kind people and getting through beautiful landscapes. In fact, everything was fine … until I came back to France. Since then, I’m in contention with Budget Car Rental and no solution has been found amiably. That’s why I’m a bit desperate and why I really need your help.

Here are the facts :
1. I rented a car at Glasgow airport agency. When I took the car, there were heavy showers on Glasgow and nobody from Budget wanted to inspect the car (a black car furthermore, impossible to see anything on it, with droplets everywhere) with me. I didn’t notice anything more than the damages that were mentioned on the contract, so I took the car this way.

2. No problem during the trip, I came back to Glasgow on time (between 9:15 and 9:30) to bring the car back. Budget staff inspected the car with me (sunny weather this time !), checked fuel level and didn’t notice any new damage. I asked for a receipt, but the staff member refused to give me one, he said to me everything was fine, so it was not necessary. A plane was waiting for me, so I did not insist.

3. At the beginning of October, I noticed that an amount of more than 300 pounds had been taken by Budget, without any warning. I let you imagine my reaction when I saw that the money for the rent of my flat had disappeared …

4. To be short, I cut some details, but I finally managed to contact Budget Customer Care service in UK only 10 days later. They led their own investigation with Glasgow agency and finally sent me, by e-mail, a so-called “Incident report”. I say “so-called”, because I had never seen this document before. This document is dated on 9:00 (before I gave the car, it’s magic !). There’s a place on this document where the customer can mention if he agrees or not with what is written and where he allows or not to be charged with what is claimed. Of course, there’s no writing from myself on it since I didn’t see this document before they sent it. This document states the staff member noticed some scuffs on a bumper “on inspection”. It also mentions the amount I have been charged with (I recall, more than 300 pounds !) and that the car has not been repaired, but re-rent. Nothing more has an explanation of the amount.

5. I contacted the European Customer Centre to try to obtain amiably a refund of my money. No success, Budget doesn’t want to refund me, stating the car has been damaged whilst in my possession and also stating another sentence that I don’t really understand : “Normally with incidents of this nature Budget as a company charges a loss of use fee until the vehicle is repaired, on this occasion this has not been charged against you account so the fee charges is the final amount that will be charged against this rental.” Does this mean that I have been charged for their loss of use of the vehicle ? This would be incredible, since the “incident report” mentions the car was re-rented.

If this case had taken place in France, it would already been solved. But the rental contract mentions that Scottish laws apply. In France, it is of the rental company to prove that the customer damaged the car.
Furthermore, it is considered as abusive :
- not to warn the customer (by a real mail) before taking his money, even if he signed a contract allowing the rental company to do so if necessary (that’s why I can’t stop the payment from my bank);
- not to provide a document to justify that the damages really exist (I gave the car back with not more damages than when I took it);
- not to provide a document to justify the amount the customer has been charged with.

I personally consider that Budget has to prove first that the damage really exist and, if so, that its staff member did not damage the car after I gave it back (what I think). The minimum for me would be to get an explanation of the amount, which is currently totally arbitrary.

But it did not take place in France, so what about Scottish laws on this case ?

If possible, if you are a lawyer, please give me as precise answers as possible, such as law item numbers and so on, so that I could mention them on my next mail to Budget. In this case, I have no means to force Budget to refund me for the moment, since they have been paid and I can’t stop the payment. You are my last solution, but I really need this money.

Thanks in advance for your help
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Re: Help needed : car rental dispute
Reply #1 - Feb 9th, 2009 at 8:34am
You have been treated very badly here. The law is the same here in that they should have given you notice that they intended to take this money and they must justify why they did. You should writ to their head office and sya that unless they refund the money you will report them to the Trading Standards Office and will report them for fraud. Don't worry about the law of contract but using the term "fraud" is part of criminal law. If you need to writ to them use this paragraph in your letter after setting out the facts- "Unless I recieve a full refund within 14 days I will refer this matter to the Trading Standards Office and will also refer the matter to Strathclyde Police (fraud section) for them to deal with you. I have taken legal advice in Scotland and i am fully aware of my rights."

Good luck. This is a bit of a bluff as it is unlikely that the police will become involved and you would have to sue budget in the civil court here but that would be too difficult and time consuming.
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