Answer: If you aren’t responsible for that tiny ding in your car, then Avis shouldn’t charge you for it. Either way, 800 euros is way too much for a chip that can’t be seen under a layer of filth. I can certainly understand why you’d think this is a scam.
It’s hard to see this from a car rental company’s point of view, but let me give it a try. Assuming this isn’t a scam (which I hope it isn’t) and an Avis representative discovered legitimate damage to your car, and assuming it wasn’t noted on an earlier rental, then who should pay for it? The company? Your credit card? Or you?
Your credit card probably wouldn’t have covered the dent, since most cards only have secondary coverage, which only kicks in after a primary policy, such as the kind offered by car insurance, has been used. What’s more, not all card coverage can be used overseas.
So who pays? You do.
Still, I share your suspicions about what happened. Why charge 800 euros for minor damage? Why tell you everything is “OK” when it isn’t? Given the many other cases of ding-scams I’ve described in this column and on my blog, you have every right to be concerned.
This could have been avoided by saying “no” a few times when you picked up the car and returned it. No, first, to the dirty car. (You’re entitled to a clean one.) No when the guy at the gate waved you through without checking the car for damage. I always mark up my rental form and ask the rental employee to sign it — just in case I end up with Inspector Clouseau when I check back in.
Also, don’t accept an employee’s word that everything is “OK.” Get it in writing. Had an Avis employee signed off on your rental, this would have been an open-and-shut case.
I contacted Avis on your behalf. It contacted you, apologized for your experience, and dropped the charges.
(Photo: mo tiqua/Flickr Creative Commons)