HOLIDAYMAKERS from Ireland are being charged 20% more to hire cars abroad than fellow tourists from Britain or the north.
Rental giant Avis offers a week’s rental in summer for a family car in Majorca, Spain, for €355 on its Irish website but Stg£222 on its British website.
At current exchange rates £222 equals €277 so Irish holidaymakers are being billed an extra €78 or 22% more than tourists from Britain or the north for exactly the same car.
The Irish Examiner has trawled car hire firms’ websites for price differences after a European consumer centre report revealed growing complaints against the car-hire industry in Ireland.
Like Avis, car hire firm Hertz has separate websites for Britain and Ireland and lists prices in sterling for the British and in euro for the Irish to hire cars at the same international destinations.
But the differences in prices between Hertz’s British and Irish websites are closer, varying by a smaller margin of 4.2% and 5%.
For instance, holidaymakers wanting to hire a Ford Focus for a week in August in Majorca would pay €277 with Hertz Ireland and sterling £212 with Hertz in Britain and the North.
Since £212 equals around €264, the price Irish consumers pay is about €13 more or 4.2% more.
Other car rental firms, including Enterprise, instead list the price in the currency of the country where the car is picked up, for example dollars in the US.
Last night the Consumers’ Association of Ireland (CAI) urged holiday makers to spend time seeking out the best deals before hiring.
“Consumers need to be more savvy about this and see if they can get best value by going to the British websites instead,” said CAI chief executive Dermott Jewell.
“They also ought to complain when they spot price differences,” he said.
Another popular rental car with Avis, the Opel Astra, is priced €301 for a week’s hire in August from Majorca’s Palma airport with avis.ie yet the same car is available for sterling £206 (€257) at avis.co.uk, a difference of €44 or 17%.
Similarly a Volkswagen Golf is €550 for Irish holiday makers but only £400 (€499) from Britain or the north, a difference of 10%.
Rental firm Europcar quotes the same price of €422.47 on both sides of the Irish Sea for a medium-sized family car as does Budget at €355 for a Renault Megane saloon.
Mr Jewell said as money gets tighter holidaymakers have greater incentive to seek the best deals by taking time to compare prices for items like car hire.
Last year European consumer chiefs received an increasing number of complaints about Irish-based car-hire companies — with grievances up 23% in 2007 compared to 2006.
Unexpected penalties and mystery add-on charges were the greatest cause for complaint, the Dublin office of the European Consumer Centre said.
No one from Avis Ireland was available for comment.
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