Victory over car hire firm’s overcharging

CONSUMER POWER John Dickins from Horndean after his victory over car hire firm Hertz. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (14110-3)
CONSUMER POWER John Dickins from Horndean after his victory over car hire firm Hertz. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (14110-3)
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When an otherwise enjoyable holiday experience ends up marred by an unresolved travel dispute, it always ends in upset.

And so it was for John Dickins of Horndean, when he decided to take advantage of his daughter’s unused timeshare facility to spend a couple of weeks with his wife and sister-in-law in Phoenix Arizona.

The 76-year-old former mechanical engineer proceeded to put a travel and accommodation package together. For maximum flexibility his sister-in-law organised a Hertz rental car with both of them listed as named drivers.

When they turned up at the Los Angeles airport rental office to collect the car after an exhausting 10-hour flight there was a complication.

His sister-in-law realised that she’d left her driving licence at home. But that didn’t present a problem as John was named as the other driver.

The clerk at the Hertz desk agreed to transfer the entire contract into John’s name on the understanding that when she presented her licence at any Hertz office they would add her name to the contract at no extra cost.

At the same time the clerk tried to sell them some extras, including a car upgrade with sat nav which they firmly declined, insisting they just wanted what they’d initially booked.

He then went on to tell them there would be an additional $200 excess charge, refundable if the car was returned undamaged with a full tank of petrol. As they complied with this condition at the end of the hire, the charge was never activated.

John says the break was most enjoyable, but to his surprise when they arrived home in late October he was astounded to find his wife’s Santander credit card had been debited by Hertz with £226.59 additional charges.

When he tackled Hertz about it, he was treated with dismissive disdain by a company representative, who was adamant that the charge was for pre-agreed extras.

John said: ‘The attitude of the guy in the UK was absolutely disgusting. I’ve never experienced such an offhand individual and at no time was he prepared to listen to us.

‘All he kept saying was we must have got it wrong, but we wouldn’t do that.’

‘We also asked Santander for help, but they were useless. They said they’d contacted Hertz, who claimed they were not responsible, so the bank wouldn’t do anything. But they still charged us interest on the unpaid bill.’

Incensed he was being given the run-around and feeling cheated, John called Streetwise for help.

Once we got onto Hertz with his complaint and asked them for an explanation they moved to defuse the situation and agreed to investigate.

A matter of days later spokeswoman Sharon Rose from Hertz executive customer service contacted John to tell him they were refunding the excess charge.

She said: ‘We sincerely apologise for any misunderstanding regarding the additional charges billed.

‘Please be assured this is not typical of Hertz service and we will use your comments to improve our service. I’m sorry this situation occurred and I appreciate the opportunity to take corrective action on your behalf. I trust you will give Hertz another opportunity to regain your confidence.’

A grateful John was over the moon that the problem had finally been sorted.

‘I didn’t stand a snowflake in hell’s chance that I would have got anywhere without contacting Streetwise,’ he said.

‘Hertz just wasn’t listening, and if it hadn’t been for you I’d still be phoning them in New Jersey waiting for an answer.’