Green Motion hire car broke down – then we were charged £2,600 | Consumer rights

In August we hired a Volkswagen Golf from the Edgware Road branch of Green Motion and, with our two very young children in the back, set off for Newcastle.

After we had driven barely five miles, the engine warning light came on. We reported this to Green Motion and were advised to drive 30 miles or so north, where we were met by an AA patrol worker.

Having diagnosed the problem as the clutch, the AA advised us to follow him to the nearest VW garage in Letchworth. The garage could not repair the car there and then, and said it was not fit to be driven on to Newcastle.

Green Motion would not provide us with a replacement, and we were forced to abandon the trip. We had to make our own way back to London and lost £360 we had paid for accommodation.

Rather than refund us the £260 the car rental had cost, and apologise for providing us with a damaged car, Green Motion has blamed me for the failure of the clutch and applied a charge of more than £2,600 to my credit card to pay for a replacement.

Since then, I have been engaged in a four-month battle to get it to return our money.

The AA report stated that it was “highly unlikely that this fault has developed in the journey from London to the breakdown location” but Green Motion still maintains that I am responsible, arguing that the car was fine when it left its depot.

The engine light only came on when the car was driven above 40mph, so it is quite possible that its staff didn’t experience this while driving in central London.

To say I am furious at my treatment is an understatement.

SM, London

In 2017-18, Green Motion car hire was one of our most complained-about companies. Customers queued up to detail how they had been charged huge sums for minor damage they said they had not caused. It got so bad, Holiday Autos removed Green Motion from its listings after “a flood of complaints”.

After a number of negative stories, the company hired a PR firm, said it had listened, and responded to the criticism by making changes. In fairness, the complaints fell away quite dramatically.

Since then, we have received the occasional letter – mostly concerning hires originating in Scotland. Until, in recent months, there has been something of a revival – including this case.

I asked the company about your experience, and it did a U-turn. It maintains that the 11,000-mile car’s clutch failure was likely caused by poor driving but it accepts that no account was taken for how long you had been driving it.

“With this in mind, Green Motion UK will not only waive the repair charge, but will offer SM the opportunity to hire from Green Motion here in the UK, free of charge, to go some way to reinstating his confidence in our brand,” it says.

It has apologised and says staff at its UK locations will be retrained on the nuances of damage charging, especially in relation to vehicle failure.

You are pleased that the £2,600 has been returned but say you have no intention of using the free rental offered. You would prefer the company repay you the £360 you lost when its car failed and you couldn’t get to your holiday destination.

Meanwhile, others thinking of using Green Motion to hire a car may want to consider the following: ReduceMyExcess, the car hire excess insurer, and a Guardian Money best buy, has specifically excluded claims that arise from Green Motion rentals for several years. It is the only hire car company that it refuses to cover.

Finally, don’t hire a car for the first time without reading this guide. If you fail to note all the damage on the car before you drive off, you are opening yourself up to problems when you return.


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