IrishCentral revealed yesterday that some Irish car rental companies are ripping off tourists with bogus claims of damage to cars when they are returned. There has been quite a reaction from our readers.  

IrishCentral has had a huge response to our article detailing cases of travelers to Ireland who were ripped off by some of the car rental companies. The major complaint is with Hertz whose Irish subsidiary is run by a company called Ryan’s Investments, in Ferrybank, County Wexford. Below we publish a selection of the letters we have received.

It is a total disgrace that people are treated this way and high time action was taken to ensure a fair deal for tourists renting cars in Ireland.

The obvious immediate step is to photograph or film every inch of the car before driving it away. It appears some companies are charging over and over for invisible dents and tire, issues catching unwary clients as they rush for their plane.

The Irish Independent recently interviewed a former car rental company employee who outlined the tactics used by his colleagues. Below that see a sample of letters received on rental car rip-offs  in Ireland

"The tactics were very 'Laurel and Hardy' style," the source said.

"Laurel would check the vehicle, identify a scratch within 20 seconds and then go into the office to get Hardy to come out and assess the 'damage'. He'd make up a figure there on the spot and then the customer would have to fork out.

"Most people pay as they have flights to catch and have no option.

"There were some customers, they'd had a great holiday, but they were in tears then going home after they said they were charged for scratches they didn't cause.

"It was always just your average holidaymaker who was targeted, very rarely would business people be targeted. It always seemed to be families with kids."

Here are just a sample of letters to IrishCentral from the public:

November rip-off

I rented a car at Shannon airport on November 30th from Enterprise. I was home for a funeral from New York. When I returned the car on December 16th the woman immediately went to a tire and said there was a cut that I could not see, and they withheld 500 euro. I protested and would not sign anything. I was charged 498 euro and I called Chase visa not to pay it. Chase did this and we are waiting for a response from Enterprise. A total rip off and I told them that at the airport.

- John Frawley.

~~~~~

$6,500 damages charged 

A few years back I rented a car from budget rent a car, I had a very small dent happen in the boot of the car when I backed into a bollard at a gas station in Cork, my speed was about two miles an hour when I hit it!

I took the car back right after the incident to the budget rental at Cork Airport as I was afraid the lock might be damaged and the boot might fly open when driving, and my elderly Mum and my young niece and nephews were with me at the time it happened.

I took pictures of the damage and spoke with a guy from Budget in Cork when he exchanged the car and he reckoned at most might cost around $1000 to fix!

When the bill was sent on, they charged to have the car towed from Cork to Dublin for the repair, it was a mere dent and I drove it no problem and I know we have panel beating shops in Cork -- so why the need for expensive tow to Dublin?

They said they needed to put new tail lights and decals and various other made up stuff etc. , my picture showed no damage to tail lights?

They charged admin costs (crazy amounts) and loss of use of the vehicle.

What should have been at best  $1,000 they managed to extort over $6,500 for it, the car probably wasn't worth $7,000. Rip-off Ireland as they say.

I never rented from budget again, I'm an Irishman living in New York it's sad that this type of rip-off has been going on for so long. Thanks for writing the article.

Hopefully, the exposure will help with putting a cap on this behavior.

Thanks and cheers.

- Noel McCarthy.

~~~~~

Fake damage

Thanks for highlighting the car rental damage scam in Ireland. My experience was in August 2018 when I went to attend my niece's wedding. I am diligent about walking and taking photos of existing damage on my rental car and this time was no different. At the desk, I was asked if I would be using the back seat as there was a recall for seat belt problem and there was an x across the center of the seat with yellow caution tape, but I took it anyway. There was existing damage on the rear bumper which I recorded and did not notice any other visible damage on my inspection.

My credit card company covers any damage up to $50,000 so I decline their inflated coverage, which they try to say you are not covered. I have a letter from the credit card company as proof or they will refuse otherwise, then they put a hold of 5000 euro on your card which increases every year and I have no problem with that as I have rented from different hire firms over the years and never had an accident.

This time on the return the guy heads straight to the front passenger side and says accident damage, I had to get on my knees to see it was scuff marks around the headlight and bumper. I protested it saying it could have been there previously as it was not visible without getting your face right up to it, they would put a 500 euro hold on the credit card and contact within five days with a true cost to repair, after two weeks and not hearing from them and also having 500 euro taken from my credit account.

I disputed the charge and credit card company said I would have to appeal it with the car hire company I had to email rental company three times before I got a response and they sent me a damage report and estimate for 416.72 euro, which probably will never be done anyway and used for the next victim. I then had to furnish all the paperwork to the credit card company before getting reimbursed months later.

This is really bad for Irish tourism when they put you through that and try to think up new ways of ripping the tourist off. I hope some more investigation is done and put a stop to this. Some will say take out the coverage they provide, and you don't have to worry but that can run two or three times the cost of the rental and I would rather spend that enjoying my holiday.

Thank you.

- Jimmy Ryan.

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I read the article. My wife and I, both Irish, have lived in New York for last five years.

We had an almost identical experience to Pat Donaghy whose letter you revealed on Saturday. We rented from Dollar Car, part of Hertz, from Dublin airport, in the summer of 2018.

After having the car for about a week (I can get details if you want them), we returned to the airport and some Eastern European guy in the office said there was a scratch on the rim. I couldn’t believe it. He estimated approx. 500 Euros in damage. I argued and said that may have been there before and even if it wasn’t it was too superficial to bother with. He put it through anyway.

These people know you have to run to catch a flight.

I will report to car rental commission as well.

 - J. Donleavy.

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Tire trouble alleged

My husband and I spent five weeks in Ireland (our second visit).   We rented a car from Avis at the Dublin airport.  We were talked into purchasing additional insurance even though we didn’t think we’d need it.

When we returned the car for our departure it was just as your article says.  The agent went straight to the tires and started talking about bulges and rim wear.  We didn’t see any, but he insisted, and we ended up paying some ridiculous amount to replace/repair.  The insurance we’d purchased did not cover any of it.  On top of that, the CD player in the car ate my CDs and wouldn’t spit out the last one.  They pretty much said “Too bad.”

So yes, I believe every word of your article and think it is the tip of the iceberg.

- Wanda Clary.

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Overcharged

I just saw the article online about the overcharges with Hertz in Dublin.  I had a car that I rented that I had a minor accident within a parking lot, as you probably know the parking over in Ireland can be very tight.  When I brought the car in, I expected like a 100 or 200 euro charge, instead, it was 900 and I was rushing to catch a flight, so I didn't fight them.  Chase paid the bill, but it was definitely excessive. 

As an American frequent traveler never once in the 100's of times I've rented in the US over the last 30 years, nothing like this ever happened.  Only, overseas. I am very afraid to rent cars over there because of their horrible practices.  What most people don't realize is that Hertz in the UK and Ireland is a totally different company with different legal owners etc. 

Hope you get to the bottom of this!

- Ann McDermott.

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Three issues with Hertz

I’ve had three issues with car rentals in Ireland, all involving a Hertz.

Most recently my Hertz car wouldn’t start in the morning resulting in an independent local assigned by Hertz, coming to start it.  I then returned the car to Hertz and got another one.

Shortly thereafter  Hertz charged me for the cost of the man coming to start up the car. I believe it was around 75€ . The reasoning was that since Hertz couldn’t find anything wrong with the car then it was my fault despite the fact that when the car was started up in the hotel parking lot nothing was on that would have caused the battery to run down.

Years ago, a rock was thrown at the side of the car in Derry resulting in a small scratch. I was charged $250 with my credit card company and my auto insurer both declining responsibility so I finally gave up and paid it.

A few years back I was renting a car at the city airport in Belfast and there was a $50 “convenience” charge, the “convenience“ being the location at the airport. When I asked where else I could rent a car from Hertz in Belfast so as to avoid this fee, l was told nowhere, since this was their only location. So obviously this scam was very convenient. Convenient for Hertz to increase their bottom line.

These incidents don’t involve the situations encountered by Pat Donaghy but are examples of things to be wary of when renting from Hertz.

In the future, I will take photos of any car I rent so as to head off any scams.

And Hertz will be the last company I deal with.

- Steve McCabe.

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First trip rip-off

I saw your article in Irishcentral.com about the car rentals in Ireland and wanted to tell you about my experience. I am American but my parents were from Ireland, so I have spent much time there.

I was bringing my husband and son for their first trip and we landed at Shannon Airport.  I booked the flight and car through Aer Lingus and the car through Hertz because my husband had discounts and I prepaid for the car.

In Shannon, the rental desk demanded more money stating the discount was no good in Ireland and charged me an amount equal to what I had paid, so I gave him my credit card thinking I would straighten this out when I was home, not wanting to mess up our family vacation.

On our way home, they also charged me for a scratch that was present on the car.  I did complain to Hertz, but they told me they were a different company in Ireland, so I had no recourse.

- Mary Callahan.

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I too was subjected to paying for previous damage to my rental car in 2017. Also, I was not told beforehand of having to pay for sc nor was told that same didn't cover tires [sic]. At the time of rental at Shannon, we had just arrived of a long flight and were tired and just wanted to be on our way. Previous damage was noted by Hertz to the left front rim but when the tire started losing air daily. I contacted Hertz and was directed to a Hertz mechanic near Tralee. The tire was replaced, and I was billed for something that I didn't damage. After several rounds between my travel agent and Hertz the money was refunded with the quaint response of customer relations.

My advice to others is to nitpick every scratch and not feel rushed to sign the rental agreement!

- Joseph O’Leary.

What do you think? Is renting a car in Ireland different to renting in the USA? Have you had similar "rip-off" situations in Ireland? Let us know in the comments section below or email editors@irishcentral.com.

Read more: What American drivers in Ireland need to know

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Dream of being on the open road in Ireland? The reality of renting a car seems to be quiet different to what you might imagine.Getty