Durban - When you rent a car, the deposit amount and daily hire amount for the rental are “held” or “blocked” by your credit card bank. When you return the car, the actual hire amount is processed and the deposit is returned to you, usually within two days.
But consumers frequently complain that the “blocked” amount remains unavailable to them for far longer.
When Johnathan West of the UK hired a Range Rover Evoque from Avis in Cape Town on his recent visit to our shores, he was made to pay a deposit - in the form of a reserved amount on his credit card - of a hefty R24 000.
He had the car for three days and when he returned it, it was “signed off” as damage-free.
But two hours later, he received a text saying he’d lost his deposit because of damage he’d done to the car.
“So I phoned them and, after being put through to a few departments, I was told it was an error, that in fact, the person before me had caused the damage to the car and they just hadn’t looked through the paperwork properly.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
It took another 10 days for that R24 000 reserved on his credit card to be released for his use, which was a huge inconvenience to him at the end of his holiday.
He told Consumer Watch: “I have sent e-mails to Avis about this, with no response except an automated reply.
“For a large worldwide organisation such as Avis this is below-par service.”
“I’ve used them on many occasions and in many countries, but never had quite such an experience like this,” West wrote.
Asked to respond, Avis Rent a Car’s Southern Africa chief executive, Keith Rankin, began by apologising for the error concerning damage to the car.
As for the issue of the reserved amount, I asked Rankin what was considered normal practice regarding the time taken to release deposit amounts on credit cards.
He replied: “The issue relating to the authorisation release of the credit card funds is a challenge we have with the credit card companies, where the authorisation amount is not automatically released if the actual amount charged is substantially lower or higher than the authorisation amount taken.”
NOT THE ONLY ONE
In West’s case, for example, the reserved amount was far higher than the final cost of that three-day rental, mainly because he rented a luxury vehicle.
Apparently, this isn’t an Avis-specific problem as I’ve had similar complaints about other car rental companies.
Rankin said: “We are working on resolving this issue with the credit card companies. However, our response to Mr West could have been much quicker to have this issue resolved.”
As an apology to West, Avis credited him half his actual rental amount of R2725.