How to dispute pre-existing, likely-scam damage with a major rental chain (Southern Europe)?

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Sep 13, 2019
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I am about to dispute damage claim that I am not responsible for, for a car rented in Southern Europe, with a major worldwide chain, in a country different from my residence.

First I detail my case, then list my questions; finally provide some reasons I believe it can be a scam and ask whether they can also help we in any way.

I would prefer to omit location and name of the chain at this point; ready to detail them to the benefit of the community when the case is closed.


CASE BACKGROUND

1. We are extremely confident that we are dealing with preexisting damage: the location and nature of damage make it extremely unlikely to happen during our rent, given our parking and driving locations and conditions (I can elaborate it for the bank / for the rental company, but it can hardly qualify a "hard proof").

2. We did not notice the damage at the initial walkaround, and therefore did not include it to initial list of damages (while we still wrote down some other defects and get them signed). Nor we noticed the damage during over a week of intensive driving and parking.

3. We first discovered the damage upon car return, shown by rental representative. He photographed and "registered" it electronically. Other that that we made no "final walkaround" document to be signed by either party. We declined to sign a bill for damage, but signed final bill for the rent itself. So we never acknowledged responsibility for the defect yet.

4. I am planning to request a chargeback with a bank which earlier resolved a major dispute in my favour (not rental-cars related).


MY QUESTIONS

5. Would it be practical to request pre-rental photos (along with odometer photos) demonstrating that the damage was not there before? (as other forums frequently suggest) Most likely this rental company doesn't make such photo walkarounds after each rental, therefore I probably won't get them. The rental contract does not imply rental company should make such photos; all defects not listed in initial form are considered my responsibility.

6. Does it make much sense to request final form/list of defects as a formal proof of the defect? The rental contract does not require us (nor the rental company) to complete it under any circumstances.

7. Repair estimate: does it make sense to insist on a bill from the actual repair? I'm afraid it will repaired years from now, if at all. Currently, a "damage matrix" estimate is most likely used for the damage amount.

8. In case of doubt (our word against word of rental company), can video surveillance footage work for bank as an evidence in favour of rental company?



REASONS TO SUSPECT SCAM

For the reasons below, it looks like it could be a scam from individual franchise of the chain in question. Is there any way to make some part(s) of it help with my case?

9. The damage in question, while not a minor one, is very difficult to notice unless you know where to look at, and which angle to use. If you simply make a photo workaround of the car, most likely the damage will be not captured.

10. At the same time, the rental representative noticed it in the very first second he started the final walkaround.

11. The workaround started immediately after we tried to dispute the extras we did not originally request, but were charged for.

12. We believe it is very untrivial to make such a damage unintentionally, under regular driving conditions (I can elaborate it for the bank / for the rental company).

13. The rental location has a steady record of negative reviews; dozens %% of which refer to abusive revenue streams (agressively forcing to include extra charges and insurances using false arguments; fake damage claims etc).

14. Given 9-13, I believe the office will keep renting this car with this damage not pre-listed, charging as a "new damage" every customer who didn't initially noticed it.
 
Sep 13, 2019
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#3
Neil, thank you for the link. I've read all the FAQ threads and articles on this forum prior to posting my questions. As you can see, the questions are not covered by them, including the 9703 link you've provided.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#4
Escalation is a reasonable next step, in my opinion. But before I share the link to car rental contacts, I will offer my thoughts about your questions.

Question
Would it be practical to request pre-rental photos (along with odometer photos) demonstrating that the damage was not there before? (as other forums frequently suggest)
Response
No. This would be ideal, but not practical. And, I think, it does not strengthen your case.
Question
Does it make much sense to request final form/list of defects as a formal proof of the defect?
Response
A request for their repair estimate (invoice) is reasonable, but requesting time/date stamped photos of the odometer, license plate, and damage is far more compelling evidence
Question
Does it make sense to insist on a bill from the actual repair?
Response
No. They are under no obligation to repair a vehicle.
Question
Can video surveillance footage work for bank as an evidence in favour of rental company?
Response
This may be a legal question, but in any event, I do not know.

As to your "scam" suspicions, you may be correct but should avoid stating that in your appeal. Doing so will
likely alienate the executive(s) and hurt your case. Best practice: let the facts lead them to the logical conclusion.

I will also suggest you table the chargeback and allow the appeals process to work.

Specifics to tell them (suggested)
  • On MMM, DD, we rented a __________ from _________ for a period of ______
  • We documented some defects and got them signed off
  • We noticed no additional damage during the rental period, wherein we did a lot of intensive driving and parking
  • We returned the car confident that there would be no additional charges
  • However, the rental representative.immediately showed us some damage that is very difficult to notice unless you know where to look at, and which angle to use. If you make a simple walkaround of the car, most likely the damage would be not captured.
  • We declined to sign a bill for damage, as we are confident this damage existed prior to our rental.
Can you help us by dismissing the damage charges?​

The Car Rental contacts page is here: https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/#car-rental

Writing suggestions
Do not use inflammatory language - be polite and professional
Do not start with the CEO - begin at the lowest level indicated in the list shown below
Present a brief summary (list) of your case and give each contact one (1) week to respond before escalating to the next level
 
Last edited:
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
I think the hardest issue to overcome is the following:

2. We did not notice the damage at the initial walkaround, and therefore did not include it to initial list of damages (while we still wrote down some other defects and get them signed). Nor we noticed the damage during over a week of intensive driving and parking.

I am pointing this out not as a criticism of you but you so know what the person reading may think.

And the reason to miss it -- "The damage in question, while not a minor one, is very difficult to notice unless you know where to look at, and which angle to use. If you simply make a photo workaround of the car, most likely the damage will be not captured. "

Perhaps your fuller explanation in the letter will make more sense but carefully explain why it was not missed when you were adding damage to the report.

As for asking for previous photos of the odometer and the car -- honestly, I have never heard of a rental car company taking such photos and keeping them.

And as for video surveillance photos -- I am not sure where you would get such video. If you say that damage was not easy to see that damage would likely not show up on video surveillance. And who would you get surveillance from?

VoR61 made excellent suggestions.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#6
As for asking for previous photos of the odometer and the car -- honestly, I have never heard of a rental car company taking such photos and keeping them.

VoR61 made excellent suggestions.
First, thank you Christina. Second, I am surprised. I always thought that was part of their required damage portfolio. How can they claim damage without photos, and shouldn't those be "stamped"? Otherwise, they could have been taken months before or after.

I see what weinstock is saying about the "angle". Had it happen once to us. The car looked normal until I viewed the hood with the light reflecting off it at the right angle. Sure enough, the hood looked like someone has taken a sander to it (scuffed really bad) . . .
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#7
First, thank you Christina. Second, I am surprised. I always thought that was part of their required damage portfolio. How can they claim damage without photos, and shouldn't those be "stamped"? Otherwise, they could have been taken months before or after.

I see what weinstock is saying about the "angle". Had it happen once to us. The car looked normal until I viewed the hood with the light reflecting off it at the right angle. Sure enough, the hood looked like someone has taken a sander to it (scuffed really bad) . . .
I am just thinking of when I have rented cars -- I do not think the rental car companies take or keep pre-rental photos -- photos of the damage, sure those they will send -- but before someone rents?

I am also thinking of my last rental at a major airport. Car was returned, checked in, got my receipt and walked away. Someone could easily run a baggage cart into the side of the car after after I left and scratch it up. This time I did not take photos on the return because I took out the cdw --

I try to avoid renting cars as much as possible.
 
Likes: VoR61
Sep 13, 2019
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#8
VoR61, thank you for truly detailed reply--and special thanks for constructing a continuous text to be used.

If you don't mind, few things to clarify on your points and suggested strategy.

1. Do you think the points not included in your text are not quite helpful to make my case stronger?

- the location and nature of damage make it extremely unlikely to happen during our rent, given our parking and driving locations and conditions (I can elaborate it for the bank / for the rental company, but it can hardly qualify a "hard proof").
- The walkaround started immediately after we tried to dispute the extras we did not originally request, but were charged for.
- We believe it is very untrivial to make such a damage unintentionally, under regular driving conditions (I can elaborate it for the bank / for the rental company).

2.
Escalation is a reasonable next step, in my opinion.
So far I didn't contact the rental company's customer support in any way. My original plan was to use the following ladder:
- customer support for the country of rent
[- worldwide customer support]
- official worldwide "complaint escalation" (which does exist for this chain)
- ladder of executives

(and to file a chargeback request immediately after making a first contact with the rental company)

Are you suggesting to skip some steps in my case?

3.
I will also suggest you table the chargeback and allow the appeals process work.
Not sure what did you mean here, sorry for my non-native English:

> table the chargeback

To announce to executives that I'm going to resort to chargeback, but not actually initiate it until getting some outcome from escalation? Or to initiate chargeback now, parallel to starting with the escalation ladder?

> allow the appeals process work

Not sure what you meant here. Could you write it in other words?

Again, thank you so much.

----------------------------------

Perhaps your fuller explanation in the letter will make more sense but carefully explain why it was not missed when you were adding damage to the report.
Not sure what is your suggestion here: how would you improve VoR61's proposed text (or are you proposing a different strategy in some way)?
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#10
Glad to re-word for you . . .

Are you suggesting to skip some steps in my case?
Yes. As Neil has posted, simply reach out to the executives
"Table the chargeback"
Use a chargeback as a final step when there is no other option. Once you either tell them this ("threatening") or actually do that, they may end negotiations with you.
"Allow the appeals process to work"
I'm recommending that you complete the process of appealing (through the executive levels) before considering other actions. It's important that you give them a chance to resolve this to your satisfaction before you pursue other methods.

Hoping this is clearer . . .
 
Aug 24, 2018
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#11
Hi. I think the use of 'table' as a verb may be confusing you.
In British English, to table something means to put it up for immediate discussion.
In American English, to table something means almost the exact opposite - it means to postpone consideration of something for a period.
 
Sep 13, 2019
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#12
Are you suggesting to skip some steps in my case?
Yes. As Neil has posted, simply reach out to the executives
I apologize if I'm missing something. In my experience, the first thing any typical executive would do is consult with a relevant Customer Support and/or with Complaint Escalation: whether they ever tried to resolve that at their level before; if not (as long as we are going to skip their level), hand it over to them to decide on their discretion; give it any thought if they fail (if the customer comes back to executive level). Does your experience tell it work some other way with car rental chains?

1. Do you think the points not included in your text are not quite helpful to make my case stronger?

- the location and nature of damage make it extremely unlikely to happen during our rent, given our parking and driving locations and conditions (I can elaborate it for the bank / for the rental company, but it can hardly qualify a "hard proof").
- The walkaround started immediately after we tried to dispute the extras we did not originally request, but were charged for.
- We believe it is very untrivial to make such a damage unintentionally, under regular driving conditions (I can elaborate it for the bank / for the rental company).
I'm sorry to quote this piece, I don't want to be too persistent here. Is it safe to assume the quoted points won't make much difference for my case?

table the chargeback and allow the appeals process to work
Now it's here clear, thank you!
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#13
"Is it safe to assume the quoted points won't make much difference for my case?"

That is my opinion, yes. Technically, the damage could have occurred on your way back to return the vehicle. You should state what you believe will strengthen your case. The list I shared in post #4 will be sufficient I think.

And you are not being "too persistent" in my view. Thoroughness is good . . .
 
Likes: weinstock
Sep 13, 2019
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#14
VoR61, Neil: one last thing to clarify for now:

I apologize if I'm missing something. In my experience, the first thing any typical executive would do is consult with a relevant Customer Support and/or with Complaint Escalation: whether they ever tried to resolve that at their level before; if not (as long as we are going to skip their level), hand it over to them to decide on their discretion; give it any thought if they fail (if the customer comes back to executive level).

Does your experience tell it work some other way with car rental chains?
 
Sep 13, 2019
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#17
(Just to add minor detail here: my banking card was already charged for the damage, directly by the check-in personnel at the parking lot, few minutes after final inspection. There is no separate company involved that tries to collect payment from me)