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'I've been charged £13,500 for a hire car accident even though I bought collision damage waiver'

A trip to Florence ended badly for one reader
A trip to Florence ended badly for one reader Credit: GETTY
If Locauto want people to keep hiring their cars, they need to look again at their small print
Hannah Dawson writes

Last August, we hired a car from Locauto at Florence Airport. At the end of our first week, we had a bad crash. I failed to notice a stop sign on a slip road and drove into the path of a lorry. Luckily my husband and two children walked away from the crash with relatively minor injuries. 

The police were summoned and I was fined for failing to stop and for not having my driver’s licence on me. We provided Locauto with the police report and an account of how the accident happened and were told all was in order. Seven months later, I received an email from Locauto claiming we were liable for €15,000 (£13,500), the replacement cost of the car. We were astonished. Surely we were covered by the collision damage waiver (CDW), even though the accident was my fault. Holiday Autos tried to fight the charge on our behalf but was told by Locauto that CDW cover had been withdrawn because I had broken Italian law.

Locauto is now threatening to use a debt collection agency to force us to pay up. Can you help? 

Gill Charlton, consumer correspondent, replies

A This is the third time that a reader has got in touch to complain about Locauto revoking CDW cover after a road accident like yours. Its contract makes the renter responsible for all damage where there has been a “violation of government regulations and/or Highway Code in the state where the vehicle is driven”. Thus CDW cover is rendered null and void for many driver-at-fault accidents. I have not come across this in any other car rental company contract.

Locauto operates the Italian franchise for Enterprise, which last summer told me it was reviewing how this contract term was applied. I asked Locauto why it continues to be out of step by applying what I regard as an unfair contract term. It was also unacceptable to have taken over seven months to notify Mrs Dawson.

Locauto claims the delay was due to waiting for details of the accident from police and it was within its rights to withdraw CDW cover. After reviewing the case, it has agreed to reinstate cover for the accident, owing to the delay in informing Mrs Dawson, and will only charge the €1,200 excess. 

It is talking to its legal team to improve this clause and how it is applied.