Mark Bower

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EU probe into differing Car Hire prices across Europe

The EU has decided to look into pan European pricing policies following initial unsatisfactory replies to their enquiries from car rental giants

Drivers across Europe face paying different prices online for the same car rental depending on where in Europe they are living, says the European Commission.

They are investigating reports that the price for the same car picked up on the same date from an identical office from the same company differs from country to country across the EU.

They therefore feel there is residence based price discrimination and that this breaks EU rules.

The example being highlighted by the commission is that of a German car hirer who was quoted twice as much for renting a car in the UK than an UK based renter.

They are also concerned that despite trying to use a foreign website (say a .fr or rather than a .de address) consumers were unable to complete a booking, instead being diverted back to their own countries site.

This is due to the website monitoring the ip address of their computer and realising where they were logging in from.

The issue has been ongoing since 2011 when the Commission first raised it, but has come to the fore again recently when it wrote to six multi national car hire firms asking for an up to date position.

According to the Commission "unsatisfactory" replies were received from three companies - Europcar, Hertz and Avis - so it has published its letter and asked the companies to review their processes and report back by the end of the month.

These brands are significant across the EU as they also control other major rental brands such as Budget, Thrifty, Dollar, Firefly and National

Hertx appear confident that they will be compliant soon saying "Hertz has already advised the Commission that it is fully compliant with its obligations under the Services Directive. Furthermore, Hertz has informed the Commission of its intention to further improve its online booking system to facilitate the ability of consumers to shop for the best deal across our websites by early September."

Avis commented that it felt it was "compliant with the relevant provisions of the Services Directive", saying that it has twice invited the Commission to discuss the allegations.

Over 1500 complaints relating to cross border Car Rental have been made to the European Consumer Centres network.