Travel Troubleshooter: Car renter paid through the nose after collision

Q: I am in desperate need of your help. I recently rented a car from Europcar in Brussels. I declined the collision damage waiver (CDW) provided by Europcar in favor of the CDW on my Capital One World MasterCard.

While I was renting the car, I was involved in a collision. As a result, the front left corner of the car was damaged. When I returned the car, I was billed an initial damage surcharge of 2,470 euros (approximately $3,309). Upon returning to the United States, I filed a claim with MasterRental and forwarded it all documents regarding the damage.

A few months later, I received a call from a MasterRental agent, who stated that Europcar had no documentation for the damages. The agent advised me to contact Capital One directly to receive a refund for the extra charges.

I have opened a dispute through Capital One for $3,309. I don’t understand how Capital One can decide differently in the two cases when they concern the same claim. Can you help?

A: Europcar should have furnished your credit card company with the documents necessary to process your claim.

When a car rental company bills you $3,309, it is obligated to show that it actually paid that much to repair your vehicle. You didn’t contest the charge, but Europcar needed to work with you to process your claim with Capital One.

I don’t think your credit card company has a double standard. It doesn’t determine if a charge is right, so it couldn’t have known whether the initial damage claim was legitimate.

Some might contend that your case is a good argument for buying a car rental company’s insurance. I disagree. You were fully covered under your Capital One policy. The CDW offered by Europcar would have been an expensive and unnecessary cost.

I might have pressed this issue with Europcar in writing. E-mail addresses for its employees follow the convention: firstname.lastnameeuropcar.com, and a little Internet sleuthing would have turned up the name of a manager or supervisor. The company needed to furnish you with the documents; it can’t just charge you based on an estimate.

I contacted Europcar on your behalf. A representative e-mailed you the damage appraisal receipts, which allowed you to make a successful claim with your credit card company.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more tips on his blog, elliott.org or e-mail him at chris@elliott.org.

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