Sir Anthony told Ombudsman that this important exclusion clause had not been pointed out to him, and he strongly denied the accusation of negligence. Ludicrously, it appeared that he might have been in a better financial position if he had collided with the snowplough. Despite signing up for almost every insurance cover he was offered, he had still been presented with a large and unexpected bill. To find out what had gone wrong, Ombudsman took the case to the headquarters of Holiday Autos UK, part of Lastminute.com. Surely the incident made a mockery of the company’s proud slogan: ˜Fully inclusive prices, no hidden extras’?
After contacting the company’s French counterpart, a customer-relations manager explained that Holiday Autos Group operated in more than 40 countries and its rental terms and conditions varied according to local markets and laws. However, in respect to this particular Italian supplier, it agreed that the exclusion clause in question ˜could be qualified to ease understanding’, and the company promised to take the matter up with Italy by Car. Rental agreements relating to individual suppliers were available to drivers on request, but the company said that in future ˜this fact will be added to our terms and conditions across the group so customers have the opportunity to see supplier-specific terms prior to collecting their hire car’.
Regarding the suggestion of negligence, a spokesperson explained that this was a standard exclusion clause in insurance contracts: suppliers would pass on any costs resulting from negligence to the driver responsible. It was a particular requirement of Holiday Autos France that customers obtain a police report following an accident, and Sir Anthony had not followed this procedure, which exists because ˜it is an unfortunate fact that people sometimes damage hire cars through negligence and attempt to pass the damages on to us’. As a goodwill gesture, Holiday Autos France said it was prepared to refund half the cost of the damage (minus the insurance excess), which amounted to ‚1,978 (about £1,320). ˜We seem to be making progress,’ Sir Anthony responded; but he still felt it unreasonable that the company was limiting its reimbursement. Following a further appeal from Ombudsman, Holiday Autos France agreed that, owing to the circumstances surrounding this particular accident, it was willing to make a full refund of the damages previously charged.
Drivers renting cars should be aware that they are bound by the contracts they sign, and that it is their responsibility to familiarise themselves with the terms and conditions of both the local supplier and any agent or broker they book through. ˜Fully comprehensive’ insurance is full of exclusion clauses and is often far from fully comprehensible. f)
Ombudsman offers a free advisory and mediation service for travellers Please note that we cannot act in all cases. Before contacting us, readers must have raised their problem with the company concerned. All letters to Ombudsman should include photocopies of the company’s response and all other relevant documentation and photographs. Correspondence, which must be typed and include a daytime telephone number, should be sent to: Ombudsman, My blog, Vogue House, 1 Hanover Square, London W1S 1JU. Submissions become the property of My blog and may be edited, published or otherwise used in any medium.