18 June 2013

Buyer beware, part 46

I was unhappy to pay for a seat that I did not need to reserve and very unhappy to be put on a return flight that left before I arrived, but I'm most unhappy about Auto Europe's deceptive pricing on car rentals.

Here's what happened:
  1. I booked a rental on their website (pickup: Seville airport), after comparing sites...
    This is a sample. Ours was $103 (EUR 78)
  2. We arrived at 8pm and then found that our rental was 60 percent more expensive due to the 49 EUR "airport pickup charge."

  3. After our holiday, I called AutoEurope (in Oregon!).
    Q: Was there any way to avoid that charge?
    A: No.
    Q: Then why was it not included in the price?
    A: It's included in terms and conditions...
    Q: You mean the ones that nobody reads?
    A: Yes. It's in there somewhere...
    Q: How do other customer react to those charges?
    A: When they see that they had agreed to them, they pay.
Well, I didn't agree, and I eventually got half my money back.

What bothered me -- and what's bothered regulators who now require that some airlines include ALL charges in the prices they quote -- is that there was no way to avoid this charge. It should have been included in the price, so that I would have been able to compare AutoEurope to other sites on an apples-to-apples basis.

What REALLY bothers me is that I discovered that AutoEurope's site gives different prices and terms to you, depending on where you set your "home country" when viewing their site.

These deceptive business practices may be profitable for AutoEurope, but they rip off customers because there's no clear way of understanding how your charges may vary.

Bottom Line: Boycott and complain when merchants rip you off. Use other businesses that are honest.

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