On location, at a price

Here is something I consider to be a scam. I am just back on a brief visit to Ireland, where I am attending an event later today. For various reasons I needed to rent a car, and I did so online while still back in Scotland. The car hire company quoted me a price, and when all details and requirements had been settled I was invited to enter my credit card details. I did so, and after I had finished a new page came up telling me what I had I had now purchased. To my surprise in addition to the previously quoted charges there was now also a payment of €25 which was described as a ‘location charge’.

When yesterday evening I arrived at the car rental desk in Dublin airport to pick up the car I queried this charge, and was told this was standard for all car rental companies (though I must say I have never noticed it before), and was a charge for ‘renting from the location’. I asked whether there was any way I could avoid the charge. The lady said there was, by not renting from the ‘location’. I asked how this could be done. She didn’t know. I pointed out that I considered this unacceptable, because I wasn’t even advised of this charge before confirming the reservation and entering my credit card details. Even Ryanair – who, bless them, are world leaders at adding charges for unexpected and unavoidable items – tell you about such stuff before you pay.

It seems to me that as much commerce and trade migrates online it becomes important to have easily understandable and transparent pricing there. My experience in this case is a blatant example of a hugely misleading approach to pricing, and a plainly stupid reason for a charge. If certain locations are more expensive, then the rental company should include that right away in the standard quoted price. Then I can book my car with another company. But there are examples all over the place, with postage and packing often being another example of pricing obfuscation. It is time for consumer bodies and regulatory agencies to get active.

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5 Comments on “On location, at a price”

  1. Charlie Says:

    Name and shame!

  2. Newell Hampson-Jones Says:

    The location charge itself is probably legal but not mentioning it until after payment I’m certain must be illegal.

  3. Eric Funston Says:

    I’ve made online arrangements with a car rental company to hire cars in Scotland (in July and again in September) and Ireland (July through August). I don’t recall seeing any sort of “location charge” on the Irish reservation confirmation. However, the Scottish reservations both include an “airport access” fee – £32 in one case and £35 in the other (no explanation for the difference). Really makes no sense!

  4. Simon Dobson Says:

    My understanding of location charges are that they’re exactly what they sound like: a fee payable if you walk in off the street at a hire location and ask for a car. So the way you avoid them is by not doing this, i.e. by booking on-line — which you did. Sounds like a money-making grab masquerading as an ill-designed web site to me….

  5. wendymr Says:

    Just about all airport locations of car rental companies charge an additional fee for the ‘privilege’ of picking up your car at the airport. Some over here, though, do it by incorporating it in the overall price – so if you pick a car up from a city centre or suburban location it’s one price, and from the airport it’s another price. (And prices can vary between other locations also).

    But car hire companies are notorious for adding on extra charges: the ubiquitous, and iniquitous, collision damage waiver, for one.

    We’ve used Hotwire for car hire for quite a while now: what you see on their site is what you pay.

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