The revelation that certain car-hire companies in Ireland have been ripping off American tourists with bogus damage charges when the car is returned is shameful.

The importance to the tourism business of honest and above-board car hire companies has never been more obvious.

An investigation by IrishCentral and separately by the Irish Independent newspaper in Ireland revealed a con game practiced by certain car hire companies.

After the IrishCentral story ran the site was inundated with letters, mostly from American tourists but also from other countries all with a broadly similar story to tell.

Read more: Huge response to IrishCentral's Irish car hire tourist rip-off article

The narrative begins when the car is being returned, a time of considerable stress for the tourist who has to catch a shuttle from the rental car block to the airport. Then they have to check in and board the flight.

Thus, the person is almost always under time pressure. What has been happening, especially with some Hertz renters in particular it seems, is a scam where the inspector highlights minor damage such as a scrape or a tiny dent.

Scamming car hire firms must be stopped.

Scamming car hire firms must be stopped.

The person is asked to fork over sums as high as $1,000 to deal with the issue. The company already has the renter's credit card on file and usually a large deposit. The car rental company holds all the aces and the tourist is almost forced to pay up or deal with missing their flight.

The experience of Patrick J. Donaghy, a leading Irish businessman in New York is very typical.

“On August 9, 2018, went to Ireland for my sister’s funeral -- rented car in Dublin airport through Hertz, returned on Tuesday, August 14, 2018.  The inspection was done by employee.  He immediately walked to the front passenger side tire and mumbled something and told me there was a bubble on the tire, which I could not see for which they held €780,” Donaghy wrote.

“Went through the same aggravating process with Chase visa but this time no change in the settlement, they already paid Hertz the full amount.”

There is a common thread in the Irish Independent inquiry and the cases sent to IrishCentral: people leaving the car back at the airport are charged huge amounts for scratches, tire bulges broken tail lights which in many cases were pre-existing problems before the car was hired.

Worse, it appears that in many of these cases the damage was already there on the car and the rental company recycles claims against several renters for previous damage the renter never caused.

To complete the scam, the rental car is eventually given back to the auto dealer the rent-a-car company leased it from, where the rental car company’s insurance covers the repair of the car.

Incredible as it seems, the scam appears to have been going on for years as many readers wrote about incidents stretching back five years or more.

Rental car companies are important aspects of the tourism industry. They are often the first people the tourist sees and the last person they see when leaving Ireland.

Many of the renters who wrote to IrishCentral describe how their entire vacation was impacted by the rip off at the airport. There is nothing worse for a tourist than leaving a country with a sour taste in their mouth.

This is a matter that requires the immediate attention of the Irish government.

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