Car rental sales in the United Kingdom amount to an estimated £1.2 billion industry. However attempting to rent a car normally means surfing through various price comparison websites in search of a easily understandable and affordable deal with no hidden charges only to be surprised at the last minute by an unexpected but unavoidable charge.

In a crackdown on price comparison websites who are often found to blur the real cost of renting a car, the UK’s Competition and Market Authority (“CMA”) stated on the 1st of July 2016 that these websites must begin to start providing motorists with easy-to-access information in seven key areas of concern. The CMA has powers to enforce a range of consumer protection legislation, either directly or under Part 8 of the Enterprise Act 2002.

This campaign is in a drive for transparency and improvements to customer care as half of the leisure rental industry begins with a price comparison website and by making regulatory improvements to these businesses, consumers should get a better service. The CMA notice stated that customers should be able to expect “transparent prices whether they book directly with a leading car hire firm or through a comparison website”.

These areas of concern include a lack of information on:

  • Surcharges on young drivers;
  • One-way fees;
  • Fuel charges;
  • Excesses and the costs of reducing them;
  • Credit card pre-authorisations or deposits;
  • Collision damage waiver exclusions for insurance policies; and
  • Warnings about the legal need for snow chains in other European states.

Price comparison providers will have to provide details of all mandatory and extra costs so that the drivers receive a clear and unambiguous “drive away price”, meaning no more hidden fees. Drivers will then be able to tally up their desired extras and compare between providers for the best deals.

The CMA has stated that it has previously written to several price comparison companies and that it acknowledges that various improvements have already been made to several websites. James Macbeth, the CMA’s Project Director stated that changes made “earlier this year are already having a positive impact for holidaymakers hiring a car in the UK and abroad” and acknowledged that these measures should prevent consumers only discovering “the real cost of their car hire at the rental desk”.

Businesses are expected to have fully implemented these changes by January 2017 when the CMA will begin a “compliance review” and if the businesses do not comply, they run the risk of being subject to enforcement action.