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Car rental body wants to hear complaints

It should consider creating an ombud.

Dear Readers,

To those who have not been following, about a week ago I had a good grumble about car rental companies.

In a nutshell, I said they generally don’t deal with complaints in a meaningful way. The industry doesn’t have an ombud, and I questioned the ability of its official body, the Southern African Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (Savrala) to adequately deal with customer disputes.

To Savrala’s credit, its GM Sandile Ntseoane agreed to meet. He said Savrala takes complaints very seriously.

He even invited customers who are still unhappy about how they have been dealt with to mail him directly at gm@savrala.co.za.

Ntseoane says the industry is aware of the problems around the length of time deposits are held and has set up a working group with the Payments Association of South Africa (Pasa) to address the issue.

Trends

Even so, the industry would gain if it opted to set up an ombud rather than have its conciliation committee, which is made up of two of its members and an independent legal practitioner, handling such matters. For one, as with other ombuds, it would be able to keep track of trending complaints rather than treat each one as a unique dispute.

An ombud would, for example, keep track of how many times customers are accused of returning damaged vehicles without agencies providing proof of the alleged damages.

The advantage in keeping records of these kinds of disputes is that it could eventually lead to the development of a standardised industry approach in dealing with these complaints, which would make for greater efficiency and be fairer to customers. Such a development could even eliminate the nagging suspicion that an agency or one of its employees is in cahoots with a ring of panel beaters to ‘fix’ non-existent damage to a vehicle.

Having its own ombud could also prevent customers from going to other forums to resolve their complaints.

Since many car rental agencies are also registered financial services providers, an imaginative customer battling to get resolution could take their issue to the financial services or motor industry ombuds.

Can the industry really take the risk of having a body that has little understanding of how it works adjudicating its disputes?

Some of the larger agencies should also seriously examine whether their behaviour is in keeping with the National Consumer Protection Act. If, for example, a customer is held responsible for damage to a vehicle, under the act, can an agency still charge them for repairs if it provides no proof of the damage?

Time for some soul-searching 

From the amount of discussion generated by my last column, it is clear that it’s not just me who is unhappy with the behaviour of car rental agencies.

It’s time for the industry to get real about what it is really selling.

They parcel their service as a ‘convenience’. A customer conveniently picks up a car of their choice (usually without checking it) and then drops it off. No hassle, no fuss.

What they are actually selling is the right to operate an expensive machine for a limited amount of time. This right comes with certain responsibilities, which a customer should be fully aware of.

Car rental agencies should point out this reality, rather than soft-selling ‘convenience’.

I for one would like to see rental agents make this statement upon collection:

“At So-and-so Car Rental we offer an alternative speedy check-out and check-in service that does away with vehicle checks when you collect your car and offers no inspections on your return. Please note that if you accept this alternative service, you could be held liable for damages even if they do not occur under your watch. Such damages will be deducted from your deposit.”

This kind of honesty could be far-reaching. If the industry not only treats people like adults but also expects them to act accordingly, there is a good chance that its customers will treat hired cars with a little more respect rather than if they were 4x4s.

If the relationship between the car rental agencies and their customers doesn’t change, there is a good chance there might soon not be much of an industry to speak of.

Ride-hailing services have disrupted the taxi industry, and I suspect they are already taking market share away from car rental agencies.

For a similar fee, and the awkwardness that comes with making small talk with an Uber driver, someone can enjoy the same amount of freedom that comes with hiring a car, but without any of the liabilities.

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My wife and I had a similar experience when we went to Cape Town. Exactly what you’re describing and we took photos of the damage a slight nick in the paint. First Car Rental and I might add, the very last time we ever hire a car.

I believe an Ombudsman would be busy for a decade with Woodford car hire. I would go as far as to say it’s fraudulent what they get up to with their overcharging. Erroneous charges on Fuel , Damages ,sometimes deducting off my credit card 2 months after the rental had ended. They would never send an email explaining the reason for the extra charges …..I think sometimes they thought the credit card was theirs!!

My accountant a certified CA could not make head or tail of their accounting practices.

They use trustpilot, which is the most biased review website you could ever use. I would say most of the reviews are in-house !!

If you want a lot of unnecessary stress go to Woodford Car Hire.

Car rental companies charge excessive rates, insurance fees are ridiculous high and claims are dealt non-satisfactory. I’m always nervous when I return a car (full) that I will not be charged to fill it up (it happened before) and charge for damage. They simply subtract charges from credit card and it is an endless battle to get this back. However, apparently they expect renters to read the pages of small print that one signs.

I think this industry is ready for a clever replacement (i.e. AirBNB/Uber type of business).

Will never hire a car again. They are a bit like the travel industry, prey on overseas visitors because once the exchange rate is factored in it looks ok. Rip off.

Uber or family if there is.

AUGUST 2019

mark this date as the date CAR RENTALS went to moneyweb, the place where fraudulent companies go to die.

I actually expect these unfair/fraudulent practices by the car rental companies to increase. Uber/Bolt is eating into their lunch, and will only add pressure to their bottom lines. These companies needa a complete overhaul, downsizing, trim the fat. And there is a LOT of fat.

Your articles on the seemingly universal scamming practices abounding in the car rental industry (and with virtually zero exceptions) was an eye-opening public service.

Not only should the companies be named and shamed, but the individual executives should also be identified.

Unethical companies are driven by unethical individuals. Dishonest practices flourish wherever there is easy money and lots of like-minded “operators”.

Financial Services, Insurance houses, Car Rentals, Travel Agencies, Politicians …

Well if the email worked it would be nice????
gm@savrala.co.za.
The format of the email address isn’t correct. A correct address looks like this: someone@example.com. Please check the recipient’s email address and try to resend the message.

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