Car hire - cautionary tale

A few months ago I hired a car in Germany for ten days through BA on what seemed like quite a good deal (beware of ‘good deals’) as an extra with our tickets.  BA offered 50% off what would have been a reasonably standard price, with CDW, TP, local tax unlimited mileage all thrown in.  I compared this with what I had been able to source myself through Europcar as usual and choosing my own insurances and recovery options through my normal providers, and the BA option seemed slightly better (my first mistake).

All went well, Avis supplied a reasonable car for the four of us and agreed it was in good nick when we returned it.  No claims required.

A week later there arrived an invoice from Avis for an extra 293 euros.  The hire price was not the same as previously agreed by them with BA and the BA voucher did not fully cover it, so I had to pay the difference and also an extra admin fee of more than a hundred euros. Ouch.

I’ve been in phone and email correspondence with the polite but unhelpful “Customer Relations Executive” at BA for the last month with no luck, effectively receiving the brush off each time, even though according to my legal advice the documents they supplied me were perfectly clear, while in reality they actually misled me (LIED).  There is no way they are going to admit this, despite it being in plain print, and their legal team would run rings around anything I might find or could afford.  So I don’t expect any redress.

Moral: Organise one’s own car hire as basic vehicle only and be prepared to pay for mileage - do NOT take CDW, TP, Recovery, Excess, or extras of any kind through the hire company.

Take along unambiguous documentation explicitly to cover the class of car for the areas of the world to be visited.  And take along one’s own sat nav; I refused Avis’ generous offer at only 15 euros a day!  I can buy a sat nav for that.

Arrange all these oneself through one’s normal providers - back in March these would have cost me an extra 56.  My total car hire cost arranged by myself back then would have come to 210 euros.  In total, Avis charged 664 euros of which BA only paid 371.

So now the gloves are off, and I’m also contacting Which and Rip-off Britain with this cautionary tale, relevant since they have been covering similar cases recently.  I doubt anything will happen as a result, but I’ll feel better.


Hi Richard.  Thanks for the warning and good luck with your pursuit of justice!


Sorry to hear about your story.

How about a) going to the Citizens Advice Bureau? I think they have a duty solicitor who might at least give you an opinion on your case? He can also help you by explaining the process of making a claim, although they won’t do it for you. (see also web link below)

Then b) writing to BA and stating your case and giving them the chance to settle it. State that unless they refund you in full, you will bring a case for misrepresentation to the County Court. End your letter by stating that “This letter fulfills all the requirements of pre-action protocol.” Give them a couple of weeks.

c) If they do not refund you and you feel you have a case, ask for an application form for your local County Court, complete and return it with the fee (about £250 last time I looked). Claim your loss and the fee. The County Court will list it for the small claims track as in their eyes, its a very minor claim. I doubt you will even get more than a Deputy District Judge hearing it. Its a very informal process and you don’t need representation. The judge (a barrister acting as a judge) is duty bound to help bring your case out and won’t allow any shenanigans with the other side’s solicitor. BA if they choose to defend the case, will probably send their own solicitor (an employee who already has a salary), but under the legal principle of “Equality of Arms” the judge will give you some latitude in not being a professional lawyer. He also won’t brook a load of expenses claims if you lose as for such a small claim, BA’s own legal department should be able to state their case in the small claims court.

I have done exactly this - only in my case it was an undelivered computer. And I won, even though the company refused to settle out of court.

This is from my personal experience and so does not represent professional advice. I’m afraid you have to decide your course of action.

Also Check this out


Hope that might help.

York Sarrie

Thanks both for your posts.

I’ve been in several iterations of correspondence with BA and done all the usual things short of court action.  The same name (same person? computer?) in BA comes up with slightly different replies each time, but it is effectively the brush-off saying I should look at the terms and conditions.  Except at the time of purchase they were explicit in saying that the whole cost was covered and I need not do anything more, and my paperwork from them says so. Also it was impossible to check what payment they had made to Avis, nor what Avis was going to charge.  The most recent response was after I sent them scans of their own paperwork and the Avis paperwork.  She was also verging on being rude and brusque, so I was getting under her skin a bit by being polite and pointing out simple facts.

The money is not a problem, but the principle is.  It will be interesting to see what happens with Which? and Rip-Off Britain, both of whom have covered this type of story recently. 

Any publicity will be more useful than getting my money back, mainly because I don’t want to see others being burned.

Hi Richard, sorry to read this, but your best chance is with ‘Rip off Britain’ as national publicity breaks down barriers that often legality cannot solve. National embarrassment is a prime mover.

As you appear to have settled the bill from Avis, I assume they have furnished sufficient evidence that they did advise BA of the correct price some time before you actually booked ( I would say at least thirty days).?
If not - why did you pay? Culpability has to be proved, some one is conning you.

Unfortunately, large companies have developed a new executive branch, devoted exclusively to denying responsibility, we knew that Insurance Companies did this years ago, but the policy has extended throughout any consumer industry world wide. Pay rate commensurate with rejection rate. Success aids profitability.

A recent example was shown in one program - don’t recall if it was ‘Rip off Britain’ - but it concerned online booking through some travel agencies, who offer complete holiday bookings for flight, hotel, and anything else you wish to book in advance. One consumer did this, and was then hit by further bills from the hotel concerned, who said the rate the room was booked at was a basic price, but various extras were added and used by the said consumer. Outcome appeared to be - ‘Tough Luck’ but a warning about not booking ‘All In’ holidays was issued. Advise given - Never use this service, do you own booking to be sure that what you pay for is what you wanted and used.

The ’ Blame Game’ is a tennis ball played throughout transactions these days. First you have to be able to prove exactly who made the error, or the con, and prove that it was either a con or an error - they will argue it was an error. We’ve just seen a prime example of this practice, where a certain individual said one day “I would”, and a day later (under intense pressure) changed that to “I wouldn’t” . - From a business background, you can guess where he learned the practice. Motto - Don’t trust anyone to help you, you have to help yourself. No-one WW trusts Trump. Loose mouth and a fast recover merchant.

Good luck my friend.

Hi Gerry,

Settling the bill is unavoidable, since they already have the credit card details should there need to be a claim on the ‘Excess’ etc.

The problem is not so much Avis who have done everything by their book, but BA who simply refuse to accept that they lied to me.

I’m not losing any sleep over it.  It is one of those things that we chalk up to experience.

I’ve lost count of how many cars I’ve hired here and abroad over the last fifty years, but this is the first time I’ve been burned and the first time as part of a package deal.  I should have been more careful, all the more so since Which? had already been recently featuring this kind of problem in their warnings.

Try asking the Sunday Times for help. They have a weekly column for such problems. Car hire what a nightmare. BA usually supply a “premium” service so I do not know what they are getting up to.  Car hire firms know all the tricks in the trade. Last year I hired a car in Spain. Only when I got there did I find out that there was a seventy euro call out fee if the car broke down! That was a new one on me. The excess insurance can only be called a scam. I take out a  yearly policy for £40 but without fail at every car hire desk they are selling their own policy for around £100 per week. I have seen them do so this at UK airports. When I get a car I check all round it as if buying it and I have found defects not noted on the inspection sheet. Same when returning the car make sure you and the rep examine it together and get it signed off. Good luck with your claim.

The term ‘Buyer Beware’ just used to apply in former days to second hand articles, these days it seems to apply to everything. Reliance on ‘terms and conditions’ is an easy get out - some of these are so complicated that they are impossible to figure out, purposely so. Software is a prime example. (If it doesn’t work, or it
F***s up you computer ) - “Ain’t our fault”.

Passing on debit or credit card details is a breach of confidence surely? - Or is that part Of T’s & C’s too? Is this common practice among travel agents too? They all are supposed to offer complete online security, but it makes me think. (not that I can afford anything these days! - - - -.) If I ordered something from a supplier who doesn’t normally stock it, they don’t send my card details to whoever they bought the item from in the first place. They are acting on my behalf, and would soon earn my distrust if they did this.

ask Honest John - always good advice from him and his team -

On a trip to Lanzarote last year we hired a car through RyanAir, which turned out to be from a company called GoldCar.

We were given the opportunity at the time of booking to purchase Collision damage Waiver through one of the big UK companies (may have been Aviva).

The correspondance said “do not purchase CDW in Lanzarote, tell the hire company that you have the cover” or words to that effect.


When we came to collect the car, we were given some real high pressure to purchase CDW from the hire company, even though I showed them the certificate.

They put real pressure on, even mentioned fines and police somewhere in the conversation (scare tactics)

Even then, they still wanted a 1500 euro credit card deposit.


When we eventually got the keys, we were handed a check sheet showing any recorded damage to the car.

However, before I drove away, I went around the car with a fine tooth comb. ‘Nope, all present and correct’

Until I opened the passenger door.

Inside the top of door shut were massive dents, it was obvious that this car had been broken into at some point with a big screwdriver or crow bar.

The door frame was a right mess.

This quite obvious and severe damage was not recorded on the check sheet.

Of course I quickly brought this to the attention of the hire company and had it logged on the damage sheet before I drove away.

Had I not noticed this, I wonder what would have happened.


I could half imagine them billing my credit card for the damage, and becuase I had no record of the damage, or wouldn’t accept liability, Aviva wouldn’t then pay out.

It wasn’t until these thoughts crossed my mind that I decided to do a bit of Googling.


It seems that GoldCar are renowned for this and seems that it’s a well known scam (or so it would appear)

Google Goldcar reviews.


In the end, nothing extra came out of this, the car went back, the holding deposit went back on my card. end of.

However, I did learn a huge lesson… Don’t trust GoldCar


Now here’s the lucky twist to the tale.

Note how I opened the passenger side door … Force of habit getting in the right hand side.


Hi Richard

Very sorry to hear of your experience but pleased that the negativity did not impact you until after your trip away.

My advice is quite simple - you know you are right and this situation is unfair. sign up to the Government Gateway and the Money Claim Online(MCOL) and make a claim against the company. It is a straightforward process that is relatively cheap - court, if it comes to that, will be your local court. Get it sorted and perhaps stop this happening to others.

Good luck!