Europcar has refused to comment on a whistleblower’s claims that staff were paid for cheating customers over “damaged” cars.
Staff inspecting hire vehicles for damage are rewarded with £4 for each car they flag up as damaged, regardless of whether a repair is actually warranted, a manager at the firm told the Daily Telegraph.
The alleged conflict of interest comes amid a large number of customers reporting they have been charged huge fees for “barely there” or non-existent damages after renting a car.
Europcar is accused of systematically overbilling more than 500,000 customers for at least £30 million in repairs over many years.
Evidence is also emerging that dishonest practices at Europcar are endemic across the car hire industry.
The Europcar employee alleged that staff are able to significantly boost their annual income by sending cars for repair jobs, saying: “The best teams find new damage on one in five returned vehicles.
“Agents earn £4 per vehicle for spotting damage. Yet some scratches I can barely see. I was not surprised to find we have been raided [by Trading Standards]. Europcar should be held to account for ripping off its customers. It is dishonest and unacceptable.
“Counter staff are expected to sell extra insurances or vehicle upgrades to one in three customers. If they don’t meet their targets, they are fired.”
Europcar declined to comment the allegations.
Research also shows that Avis, another major firm, may be charging its customers over the odds for repairs on hire cars.
In one case a man who hired an Audi A4 from Avis at Heathrow last month was handed a bill for more than £700 to cover damage to the rear bumper.
But when the newspaper showed pictures of the damage to repair aggregator whocanfixmycar.com, it provided a quote from a national body repair firm for £250.
The website also produced quotes for similar repairs to other vehicles for prices ranging from £150 to £436.
An Avis Budget spokesman insisted the prices it charges its customers were in line with repair industry standards.