The European Commission has responded to complaints from EU-based consumers concerning what it refers to as "discriminatory practices for renting a car online".
To wit, earlier today the Commission publicised a letter (PDF) which was sent recently to the CEOs of six international car rental companies - Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Sixt, Enterprise and Goldcar - to urge them to stop preventing consumers in various EU member states from getting the best price offered online.
The Commission's letter points out practices of automatic rerouting or price differentiation following the identification of the consumer's IP address and his or her location, which may even prevent consumers from completing online bookings entirely.
Offering different prices solely on the basis of nationality or place of residence of the consumer is a big no-no according to the Commission's Services Directive on the single market, which is of particular relevance for the car rental industry since many consumers rent cars on a cross-border basis.
Michel Barnier, VP of the European Commission in charge of Internal Market and Services, said "The Single Market should be a daily reality not only for major international companies but also for consumers in Europe." We're not quite there yet, but that might change some day.
The Commission's decision to make the letter public today stems from the fact that only half of the six contacted car rental companies have replied "in a satisfactory way" - Avis, Hertz and Europcar are the ones who have not (yet, at least). All three have been asked to report on how they have reviewed their 'unjustified discriminatory practices' at the latest by 30 August 2014.
In the meantime, pay attention when you book a rental car online in Europe, and compare prices with eagle eyes to avoid getting ripped off simply based on where you are.
(Featured image credit: Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley / Shutterstock)