Gill Charlton has been fighting for Telegraph readers and solving their travel problems for over 30 years, winning refunds, fixing bugs and suggesting solutions.
This week’s question…
In March I booked a 10 day car rental from Pisa airport through the easyJet website. Renting a compact Fiat 500 car costs £683 with Hertz and includes a ‘free additional driver’.
On April 28 easyJet canceled our return flight on May 20 and, of the alternatives offered by the airline, I opted to return two days later. I duly logged onto the easyJet website and paid an extra £231 to cover the extra two days of hire. The confirmation said, “Your modification request was successful” and a new voucher was issued.
When I returned the car at Pisa airport I was told that the voucher no longer included a free additional driver and I was charged another €167 (£144). I contacted easyJet to dispute this and was told they would not refund me as it was a new booking. This seems very unfair and I would like to highlight an issue that will affect many drivers this summer.
Chris decided to take his case to the British Vehicle Hire and Licensing Association (BVRLA), which runs a dispute resolution service for customers. He also ruled against her because the amendment was deemed to be a new contract, and the free additional driver was not mentioned on the replacement voucher.
I spoke to the BVRLA, which said it had suggested to CarTrawler, which runs the online booking platform for a number of rental agents including easyJet and Holiday Autos, that it should not refer to such changes as “amendments”. If a client makes any type of change in a reservation, the original contract is canceled and a new one is made according to the cost and the reservation conditions announced that day. For this reason, the previous promotional offer of a free additional driver no longer applied.
The cancel and rebook model used for car rental reservations clearly works against the customer. Since the amendments are made online, companies could create software to enable them without having to reissue contracts, similar to airlines. The client would only pay the current rental rate and the second driver’s charge for the extra days. Instead, car rental agents appear to be seizing the opportunity to extract more profit from customers stranded in this summer of flight cancellations.
However, easyJet allows customers to cancel car hire bookings free of charge up to 48 hours before departure. I’ve found that it can be cheaper to shop around than to change a reservation. To reserve a Fiat 500L at Pisa airport for eight days in mid-July – similar to the notice Chris had – it costs £871 through easyJet, including an additional driver, compared to £740 when booked directly with Europcar.
Gill accepts a different case each week, so please submit your issues for consideration to email@example.com. Please provide your full name and, if your dispute is with a travel company, their address, phone number, and any booking references. Gill can’t answer every question, but will help where he can and all emails are acknowledged.