Recently, I went on a very fun and productive work trip with Eric Snively. I’ve written about our visit to the RBINS in Burssels – that was part of that trip.
Because we were visiting so many stations in such a short time I rented a car. A snug and sporty little Audi A3, a really fun car to drive. I used the same rental company I have been using for the last decade, because so far, I’ve only had good experiences with them. And now they are trying to screw me out of some € 350!
When we were in Stuttgart, I went out in the evening with some old friends. I parked the car, legally, on the side of the road, and when I cam back a few hours later the driver side mirror was damaged. Some fuckwit had crashed into it, broken the two plastic covers (but not the mirror itself, its attachment or the electronics and the indicator), and run off.
Lucky me, there even was a witness. That guy was not very much help, because the perpetrator had sped off so fast the witness never saw the license plate, but at least someone had heard the crash and could testify that the car was damaged at that time and in that place, while being parked, and not some other place and time.
I did what I was supposed to do: called the cops, who showed up after a short while and documented everything. I notified the rental company, too. Then, because the car was safe to drive, Eric and I continued our trip as planned.
I gave the car back, the attendant and I making sure that we tried to describe the damage as accurately as possible. And that’s the last I expected to have to do with this matter! The rental contract clearly states that I am liable for all damages to the car – except those for which I am not responsible! And “responsible” in this context means direct causation.
So imagine my surprise when they sent me a bill over € 350, referring to the own contribution that was in my contract.
Waitaminute! “own contribution”? That’s only for the fully comprehensive cover, which comes into action for damages I cause and am responsible for!
A quick check of German laws and prevailing case law shows I am right: it is their tough luck that the car was damaged and the perpetrator can’t be found. I needn’t pay a dime.
So if you ever rent a car in Germany (or elsewhere, I guess), make sure you know your rights. Don’t ever believe that a big business is above petty rip-offs!