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First Car Rental Warning

Dublin, Ireland
Level Contributor
717 posts
25 reviews
First Car Rental Warning

I used First Car rental in June. Car was fine, returned a few hours late so I was hit with an 80 euro charge. Annoying but my fault it was late.

However I've just been hit with a 175 euro credit card charge 1645 rand for damage to the car not covered by my zero excess insurance.

The car was returned in perfect condition and confirmed when I returned it.

I got no documentation or anything from First car or the broker. The broker are investigating the matter.

Just be wary when returning a rental car and take lots of photos. It happens all over the world but some companies do it a lot more than others so be wary of First Car.

South Africa
Level Contributor
1,760 posts
23 reviews
1. Re: First Car Rental Warning

Glad to see you mentioning it here. Such incidents, if it happened as alleged, are unacceptable and hopefully by posting about it on Tripadvisor car rental companies will think twice before defrauding customers in this way. Also glad to see you used a broker who can look into this on your behalf. This is one of the benefits of booking through an agent rather than direct - you have someone to fight on your behalf should something like this happen.

Cape Town
Level Contributor
10,321 posts
2. Re: First Car Rental Warning

Hi Gary

Sorry your World Cup ended with a problem.

First Car Rental are an interesting company. Although they are a South African company they partner with the Sixt International Booking operation for both inward and outward bookings. Until recently the offices were branded Sixt but now they are switching over to First car Rental.

Which UK or Irish broker did you use? Most brokers will contract with major multinationals. Presumably their contract internationally is with Sixt - which sounds fine - but when you get to South Africa you find your car is supplied by First. However your initial contract is with the broker and if you firmly deny any damage they must get a detailed damage report from First.

After the broker I would suggest the next contact should be to your credit card company. If you are sure there was no damage to the car, contact your CC company. As this is within 60 days the CC company should act on your behalf. Let the rental broker know you are doing this and it might push them along to get some sense out of First/Sixt.

On another point did your late return take it over to another 24 hour rental day. If not the R750 late charge sounds excessive. Is this specified in the contract? If it's an extra day's charge it must have been a big car!

Johannesburg, South...
Level Contributor
742 posts
3 reviews
3. Re: First Car Rental Warning

Hi Gary2009,

I agree with VdC, I have a considerable amount of experience in banking and I would suggest you contact your bank (or credit card company) and ask them to dispute this charge. By law the rental company then has to furnish the details of the transaction, specifically your written consent that this amount may be debited to your account. I.e. either a credit card slip with your signature on it, or a copy of the lease agreement with that specific clause. They will also have to prove the damage, if it exists.

The late charge is also very interesting, I would love to see a copy of that clause. I'm guessing that the wording was something to the effect of a full fee being charged for a day late, or per part of a day. In this case the fee is still excessive, but completely legal if you signed the contract. DVD Rental stores are particularky known for this practice. If you're an hour late you pay the full fee.

Dublin, Ireland
Level Contributor
717 posts
25 reviews
4. Re: First Car Rental Warning

Thanks guys.

I have lodged a complaint with me credit card company.

I also had a zero excess policy on the rental but my broker says it isn't covered. However they are investigating this. Broker is Auto Europe.

I have asked them what is not covered by a zero excess rental but they couldn't answer that but have promised to get back to me.

The late return was I suppose a bit excessive considering it was 25% of my 10 days cost but it was my fault it was late and I didn't flag it until I brought the car back. It was well within the 24 hours about 4 or 5 hours into the extra unplanned day. It was split 3 ways and had an admin fee but I was told that when handing the car back and didn't argue. I can accept

this though as it is a bit like the Ryanair model - play by their rules and they are cheap - break the rules and you get screwed.

The car was thoroughly checked when returned by the First Car rep and agreed there was no damage. There were quite a few scratches beforehand but these were pointed out in advance and logged on the form and agreed none were new when returned.

The agreed late fee and admin was applied in June but the extra fee was held July 2nd so it wouldn't appear on my statement for a month.

This is ot a reflection on South Africa but rather on certain car rental companies. It happens the world over.

Level Contributor
3,529 posts
5. Re: First Car Rental Warning

Hi Gary,

Your unfortunate experience sounds very familiar to me !

About 5 years ago we had a car accident when a tyre blew, I lost control and hit a tree with the car being a write-off. This was a car rented from National Car Rental who in 2008 changed their name to - First Car Rental. Don't know if there have been any change in ownership/management since then but at the time of the name change they "proudly" announced, "same company, same personnel".

Accepting that in your case there wasn't even any fresh damage to the vehicle but to try and shed some light to their claim of the "alleged" damage "not being covered". As the amount they said I was liable for was over R100,000 I sought legal advice because, like you I thought I was covered by the insurance.

Their initial explaination was "your claim has been rejected by our claims department due to negligence" Various legal bodies (RAC/AA of SA, UK solicitor) all said that a charge of negligence had to be supported by the full grounds for making this charge. Despite many requests for clarification non was ever forthcoming. They then put it in the hands of their attorneys who said they would sue me for the amount. At this point I employed a South African based attorney. He requested clarification, none received but they then started saying that in fact my insurance did not cover the accident as it only covered CDW and Theft (which is standard in most SA car rental insurance policies) as the damage was not the result of a collision with another vehicle, person or animal I was not covered. To cut a 3 year old story short my attorney advised them that as they had changed their grounds for rejecting my claim he requested them to issue a summons whereby they would be legally obliged to disclose the full reasons for rejecting the claim. Despite repeated requests they just stopped replying and eventually the claim lapsed under the 3 year rule.

Obviously, on the financial side yours is nowhere near the same level but equally annoying and frustrating.

It is quite possible that they may make noises along the same lines that the insurance only covers CDW and Theft.

I have many times tried to point out that in many cases despite very expansive wording about the insurance being offered it is very important to carefully read the 'small print'

OK you had a "zero excess" clause but that can be interpreted as zero excess on any VALID claim ie damage resulting from a Collision or Theft but any other damage however it was caused, whoever was to blame would not be covered.

My advice for what it is worth is let your credit card company deal with it and even more so in your case as apparently there was no damage in the first place, do not give in to them. It can be a pain 'fighting' them but why should they be allowed to get away with it. Best of luck.

Dublin, Ireland
Level Contributor
717 posts
25 reviews
6. Re: First Car Rental Warning

Just an update here

arguing with my broker - auto europe.

Apparently I signed an accident report. I must admit to thinking I might be losing it until I got the copy of the report via a scan. It was dated a day after I left South Africa and not even close to my signature or indeed my writing in block capitals.

I've had to send a scan of my passport to the broker and they are now contesting my signature.

The strange one is that they had my sig on the rental form and could have done a proper attempt at a copy.

Anyway I can't see how I will fail to get my money back now. It probably should be a police matter as well but I'd settle for my money back.

Level Contributor
3,529 posts
7. Re: First Car Rental Warning

Quite disgraceful business practice. Hope they get the culprit.

Anyway as you say, it chould clear any doubt about you being in the right and hopefully your refund will be quickly made. Thanks for the update.

Dublin, Ireland
Level Contributor
717 posts
25 reviews
8. Re: First Car Rental Warning

Happy ending for me as I got my refund from my credit card company.

I also learned something on Zero excess and this is a worldwide issue. It really only applies if you have an accident report and fulfill loads of conditions.

I normally don't buy it but sometimes if there is a group of us and a few drivers we pay for it thinking we could just hand back the car if there is damage. This is not the case and you will almost certainly be deemed liable for the damage unless you jump through all the hoops. If somebody hits you in the carpark and drives off you will most likely still be held liable despite zero excess insurance.

Thankfully I've never had an accident in a rental car..

Anyway next time I come back to South Africa I'll use a different rental car company.

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
2 posts
4 reviews
9. Re: First Car Rental Warning

Glad to hear things worked out for you.

Looking for Car Rental companies in Malaga, Spain for 2 weeks end of September . FirstCarGroup was recommended by someone who has used them frequently in Spain. However, I cannot find any reviews on them. Also surprised to read that they are connected to Sixt, which is a German company with lots of bad reviews. However, I wondered how many problems are the result of brokered companies, rather then these companies them selves. I'll be interested in hearing reviews about these comapnies in Spain.

10. Re: First Car Rental Warning

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