Car rental: pay attention to the costs in the event of a fine

“Is it a scam?!”, “It’s more expensive than the fine!”, “Scandalous”… Internet users who have received a fine when renting a car are numerous to tell their misadventure on the forums. The source of their dissatisfaction? Administrative fees are charged by the rental agency, are added to the price of the ticket. These costs, also called application fees or processing fees, are not hidden by the rental companies, even if they are very rarely put forward.

“Some clearly display them in their general conditions of sale, others specify that these costs can be consulted in the agency”, indicates Salim Harrouche, founder of the comparator Ma-Location-Voiture.com. On the website of the rental company Budget, for example, you can find a document stating the following: “We remind you that you are responsible for any violation of traffic rules that occurs during your rental period. […] These will be re-invoiced to you, in addition to the corresponding administrative costs”.

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Problem: Few customers find out about rental conditions or take the time to read the contract. “People often ask us why their account was debited,” says Salim Harrouche, acknowledging that these charges are not always well understood. And they are even less accepted. And for good reason, these costs are directly debited from the customer’s bank account since the rental company has an imprint of his credit card.

Annoying but legal. “It is a very common mechanism, which is used in sectors other than car rental, such as the hotel industry for example”, notes Maître Jean-Baptiste Le Dall, a lawyer specializing in traffic law. And if these costs are sometimes debited long after the offense, it is because “the tickets can be sent weeks or even months later”, explains the lawyer.

Up to 45 euros in administrative fees in France

The amount of these fees is also at the center of criticism. Depending on the lessor, the amount can vary from simple to double. “There is no regulatory framework, each lessor is free to set the number of its administrative costs,” says Salim Harrouche. Hertz and its subsidiary Thrifty are among the “good students” with fees amounting to 20 euros. But Avis, Budget or Europcar charge them more than 40 euros. And the bill can quickly climb, knowing that the amount is multiplied by the number of fines received by the rental company.

According to Sixt, these high fees are justified because the processing of tickets is far from being an automated procedure. “We receive different letters depending on the authority or the type of offense, which limits the possibilities for automated processing. In the majority of cases, the data must be examined individually. The processing of the corresponding inquiries is associated with a significant internal effort. For this reason, the additional costs are passed on directly to the person responsible for the infringement”, can we read on the site of the lessor.

These administration fees also concern those involved in renting between individuals. The amounts charged are however more reasonable. Our and Getaround are claiming 15 euros from the incriminated tenants, knowing that the first pay 10 euros to the owners of the vehicle concerned.

Also, be careful if you are driving a vehicle with several people. In the event of a breach, it is the main driver listed on the contract who will be fined. Avis clearly states this in its terms and conditions: “You are liable for any fines or charges resulting from your use of the vehicle or that of additional drivers”. It is then up to you to contest the fine with the competent authorities. For the record, you also incur a loss of points on your French driving license if you are fined in France.

The pitfalls of renting abroad

If you are not at risk of losing points in a foreign country, the number of administration fees may be even higher than in France. This is particularly the case with Europcar, which charges 56 euros in costs in Italy for a motorway toll fine. A classic in the country that claims many victims every year among tourists.

Because even by scrupulously respecting the highway code, it is easy to be trapped outside our borders. In Italy (again), you must also be wary of the “Zona a traffico limitato” (limited traffic zones, ZTL) present in all the major cities of the country. The fine can exceed 200 euros in certain cases and it is easy to be fined several times on the same day if one is unaware of the existence of these zones. “The problem is that these prohibitions are indicated on signs that are neither written in French nor in English. For a foreign driver, it’s easy to be fooled,” explains Maître Jean-Baptiste Le Dall.

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In some Belgian cities, you have to register your vehicle in advance to be able to drive in certain sectors, at the risk of being fined even at the wheel of a recent car. “In Antwerp, for example, the fine costs between 100 and 150 euros”, notes the lawyer. Not to mention the administrative costs, of course.

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Prepare your rental

To avoid inconvenience, in France and abroad, it is best to be well prepared before driving your rental car. “Always take the time to read the rental conditions, especially with lesser-known rental companies. We can sometimes be attracted by a very attractive offer in terms of prices, but have high administrative costs in the event of a fine”, specifies Maître Jean-Baptiste Le Dall.

Abroad, also remember to find out about the country’s traffic rules and the pitfalls to avoid. This will save you from unpleasant surprises in your mailbox when you return from vacation.

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