Not in our holiday Budget: £500 bill for 10 days’ car rental insurance

I paid £110 for 10 days’ car hire with Budget via an airline website. The price included basic insurance, so I paid £20 for a comprehensive policy with a third-party provider and declined the offer of extra insurance at the airport collection desk.

I was then asked to sign two boxes presented to me on an ­otherwise blank iPad. I was told one was to confirm the rental, and the second was for credit card pre-authorisation.

When we got home, I found Budget had charged over £500 to my credit card for “premium insurance”. When I queried it, I was sent a “rental agreement”, including the insurance and my signature.

I was never shown this agreement. Moreover, the charge is considerably more than the total for two return flights and the car hire.

DP, Sevenoaks, Kent

You are one in a lengthy line of readers who have found that a cheap car hire deal has been inflated by enormous, unexpected charges.

Obviously, you shouldn’t sign anything without checking what you’re agreeing to, but that’s easier said than done at an airport terminal, which can be stressful, and documents may be in another language.

Equally, few would willingly agree to insurance cover costing nearly five times the rental price, so there would be good reason for agents, who often earn commission for selling extras, to slip it through.

Budget, part of the Avis Group, told me it could not comment on what the agent did, or did not, tell you, but that it would refund half the cost as a goodwill gesture.

“We always encourage all our customers to fully review their rental agreement, and ask any questions at the time of pick-up – however, we understand this is a frustrating situation for the customer,” it says.

When asked how £500 could be justified for 10 days’ extra cover, Budget declared vaguely that it offers a variety of options.

Clawing the money back from your credit card issuer would be tricky since Budget says it has a document you allegedly signed.

The European Car Rental Conciliation Service offers free mediation for cross-border disputes, but only if the rental was booked direct with the provider.

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