Gill Charlton has been fighting for Telegraph readers and solving their travel problems for over 30 years, getting refunds, righting wrongs and suggesting solutions.
This week’s question…
In March I booked a 10 day car rental from Pisa airport through the easyJet website. Hiring a Fiat 500 compact car costs £683 with Hertz, including a ‘free additional driver’.
On 28th April easyJet canceled our return flight on 20th May and from the alternatives offered by the airline I chose to return two days later. I duly went to the easyJet website and paid an extra £231 to cover the two extra rental days. The confirmation said: “Your change request was successful” and a new voucher was issued.
When I returned the car at Pisa airport I was told the voucher no longer included a free additional driver and I was charged an additional €167 (£144). I contacted easyJet to dispute this and was told I would not be refunded as this was a new booking. This seems very unfair and I would like to highlight an issue that will affect many riders this summer.
Chris decided to take his case to the British Vehicle Rental and Licensing Association (BVRLA), which operates a dispute resolution service for customers. He also ruled against it because the amendment was considered a new contract and the free additional driver was not mentioned on the replacement voucher.
I spoke to the BVRLA who told me they had suggested to CarTrawler, who run the online booking platform for a number of rental agents including easyJet and Holiday Autos, that they should not do refer to such changes as “amendments”. If a customer makes any changes to a reservation, the original contract is canceled and a new one is established in accordance with the cost and reservation conditions announced on that day. This is why the old promotional offer of a free additional driver was no longer applied.
The cancel and rebook model used for car rental reservations clearly works against the customer. Because changes are made online, companies could create software to enable them without having to reissue contracts, similar to airlines. The customer would only pay the current rental rate and the second driver’s charge for any additional days. Instead, car rental agents seem to be taking the opportunity to squeeze more out of customers stranded in this summer of flight cancellations.
However, easyJet allows customers to cancel car rental bookings free of charge up to 48 hours before departure. I have discovered that it can be cheaper to shop around than to change a reservation. To book a Fiat 500L at Pisa Airport for eight days in mid-July – similar to the advice Chris had – costs £871 via easyJet including an additional driver, compared to £740 when booked direct with Europcar.
Gill supports a different case each week – so please send your issues to him for review at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please state your full name and, if your dispute concerns a travel agency, your address, telephone number and any booking reference. Gill cannot answer all questions, but she will help where she can and all emails will be acknowledged.