Travellers renting cars in Europe are being charged different prices online for identical car rental depending upon where they live, claims the European Commission.
Prices can even vary dramatically for the same vehicle, in the same location from the same car hire company – which goes against the EU's common marketplace rules, states the Commission.
The UK's car rental industry trade body claims that action has already been taken to address this; a spokesperson from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) told the BBC: "We are actively working with our members to ensure they comply with the European Commission."
One example raised by the Commission involves a German traveller who looked online for UK car rental. The onscreen price doubled when they selected Germany as their country of residence. Other cases have seen motorists unable to make an online booking, as websites identify their location through the computer's IP address and then forward them on to a country-specific site.
This is not a new issue however; the Commission raised concerns back in 2011 and it recently contacted six international rental companies, requesting that they review their international pricing policies. However, the responses received from three companies – Avis, Europcar and Hertz – were deemed to be "unsatisfactory". As a result the Commission this week publicised the letter it had sent, requesting that companies review their pricing practices by the end of the month.
Similarly Avis has claimed that it is "to the very best of our knowledge...compliant with the relevant provisions of the Services Directive governing our industry."
Michel Barnier, vice-president of the European Commission stated: "The single market should be a daily reality, not only for major international companies, but also for consumers of Europe."
The Commission added that not all companies have been discriminating based on customers' location and urged customers to shop around to find the best prices. It has also called on EU countries to ensure that consumers' rights aren't infringed by rental companies charging multiple prices.