Cyprus needs to clean up its car rental industry
Have you rented a car in Cyprus recently? I have. Here is my story:
I booked a car for a week through a UK-based firm that does its business from the www.RentalCars.com website.
When I went to Avis to pick up my car- I was informed I would have to pay a non-refundable 73 euro fee for petrol which I had not yet used, and if there was any petrol left in the tank, I would not get a refund for it. I was told: “Sorry, this is Avis’ policy.” I wonder how many other global rental car agencies practise this type of fraud? I have never been asked to pay for an entire tank of gas in any other country- only Cyprus.
I then tried “www.economycarrentals.com” and they told me I didn’t have to purchase a full tank of gas, but I would have to have 350 euros blocked on my credit card. However, if I agreed to take the “supplementary insurance” I would not need to have this amount of money put into escrow as “insurance”.
I have rented a car hundreds of times in the US – from the same agencies that operate in Cyprus – yet I was not required to hand over $500 in “escrow”. How much money does the car rental agency earn in the days they are holding my money in their bank account? I checked this out and discovered that this is so if they claim you did any damage to the car – even if you didn’t – they have your money. If they didn’t put this money in escrow – they would have to put an unauthorised charge on your credit card which you could then dispute to your credit card company. In reality, the money you gave in escrow was already removed from your account, pending the agreement of the car rental agency to return it.
Another deceptive practice all car rental companies employ is to scare the customer into thinking that if they have an accident, they are actually responsible for the full value of the car. This is outright fraud. All cars owned by car rental agencies are fully assured when you walk in the door whether you pay for supplemental insurance or not.
If you took out the extra insurance – and there is a major accident – the insurance company pays and the agency pockets the money you paid them. If there is no damage to the car, you paid your money to them for nothing. If you don’t take the extra insurance, and there is major damage, the rental agency will just take your 350 euro deposit and have their insurance company pay for the damages, not you.
Fraud in the car rental market doesn’t only exist in Cyprus – it’s global – but simply worse in Cyprus. I have rented cars from Avis in the US and have never been asked to pay for petrol before I use it without being given the option to fill it myself at the end of my journey.
Why does the same company act differently in Cyprus? One would think that the Cyprus Tourism Organisation would take an interest in this industry as it does with hotels – to ensure the tourist isn’t treated unfairly.
It is about time fraud in the Cyprus and global car rental market was finally exposed.
Joel Bainerman, a Middle East financial journalist [email protected]