Back in July 2014 I discovered some price discrimination in prices for car hire, when hiring a car for a Belgium-Germany trip. The details of that discrimination can be found here, and the largest difference was €5.47.
Little did I know that the European Commission was looking at the very same issue at the same time, cumulating with news about the Commission’s investigation in August. The European Commission’s press release is here.
As a result of this convenient parallel experience I have been asked to a European Commission conference in Brussels today entitled “Buying Services everywhere in the Single Market”. I view it as my role here to try to defend the consumer side, based on my own experience. The slides presented are here.
As part of my preparation I have re-visited the car hire issue, re-working my July 2014 example. Now, as then, I have looked for 4 days of car hire (this case Friday 13.3.15, 0800 until Monday 16.3.15 at 1800), with two drivers, and looking at prices with Avis, Hertz and Europcar.
Here are the results.
Hertz has managed to actually make the situation *worse* since the Commission investigation. The difference is now €20.06! It is also impossible to get a book-ahead price when booking from Germany.
At Avis, things are little better – there was €1.00 difference here in July 2014 and now there is €6.28 difference.
Finally! Progress! Europcar has actually listened to the Commission, and now offers the same price.
So where are we with this case? The Commission’s naming and shaming seems to have made Europcar change its prices, while the situation with Avis and Hertz is worse than it was, and in the Hertz case much worse. Only tighter EU law can change this practice!
(Note: there are also some differences of terms here. BE Hertz 900km / DE Hertz km unlimited. Avis km unlimited. Europcar 600km included in both cases. Also note that Hertz prices when booking in Sweden are even lower than in Germany – just €141.52. Europcar discriminates when it comes to the €-£ exchange rate)