Former Europcar franchisee fined $200,000

By Sarah Stowe | 29 Oct 2015 View comments

Former Tasmanian Europcar franchisee BAJV Pty Ltd has been ordered to pay a civil pecuniary penalty of $200,000 for deliberately charging customers more than was required to repair their hire vehicles. 

The company’s director Brendon Ayers has also been ordered to pay a $40,000 civil pecuniary penalty as it was found he was aware of the misconduct taking place at the time.

According to a media release on the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission website:

“The [Federal] Court found, based on the parties’ agreed Statement of Facts and Admissions, that  BAJV and Mr Ayers had engaged in unconscionable conduct and made false or misleading representations.”

BAJV and Ayers overcharged customers for hire vehicle repairs and failed to refund them the overcharged amount once the repairs had been completed at a lower price.

In one instance, BAJV obtained two separate invoices from a bodyworks repairer for the same vehicle.

BAJV paid the bodyworks repairer the amount outlined in the invoice with the lower amount, and presented the invoice with the higher amount to the customer.

Justice Marshall said Ayers engaged in such activity with the aim of increasing BAJV’s profitability at the expense of customers who did not know they were being overcharged.

Delia Rickard, ACCC’s acting chair said the consumer watchdog is concerned about the practice within the hire car industry.

“The ACCC has serious concerns about hire car companies’ lack of open and accountable procedures when charging customers for vehicle damage.”

She said it is vital hire car companies charge customers for vehicle repairs in an honest and accurate manner.

“Many consumers are likely to have a limited knowledge of the cost of vehicle repairs and are therefore in a vulnerable situation when a hire car company charges for vehicle repair costs.

“Hire car companies must… ensure that they have adequate systems in place to refund any overcharged amounts.”

The Court also made orders including declarations, costs and a publication order.