Europcar allowed me to drive a car with no brakes … then fined me

I hired the Fiat 500 at Nice Airport and it failed after 70km

In June I hired a Fiat 500 from Europcar at Nice airport in France. The brakes failed 70km down the A8 when I was exiting the motorway. I reacted quickly, managed to control the car, and continued with great care to my destination. In the morning I called Europcar to report the fault. Its solution? “Drive the car to our nearest branch or wait three days for a mechanic.”

I needed a car to pick up my girlfriend, so had little choice but to drive to Hyeres, 50km away. I asked Europcar if this was what it wanted me to do and if the insurance would cover me driving a car with no brakes – it said “yes”.

When I arrived at the Europcar branch, the staff were unapologetic. They made me pay another deposit for a new car and said I must pay a €40 fine for returning the faulty car without a full tank or fill it up at a garage 5kms away.

I think its attitude, and lack of regard for my safety, is unacceptable. PL, London

This is an extraordinary story – and one that could have ended very badly. I’m disturbed that a hire car company would rent a vehicle with faulty brakes, let alone compound that error by allowing the customer to continue driving a dangerous car. The firm swiftly apologised, saying safety is of paramount importance.

A spokesman said your experience was “totally out of keeping with the high standards of safety and customer service the company sets”. He said the firm operates vehicles that are, on average, under six months old and that the fault your car experienced (a leak in the brake cylinder) would not have been detectable. It added that it was “unfortunate” the rental agent in France “followed standard procedure” in telling you there was an additional charge for a half-full tank. He said you will receive a refund for the total cost of your car, which is €694 (about £545).

Email Mark King at [email protected] or write to Mark King, Your Problems, The Observer, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Please include a phone number.


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