JAMES Usher came to Sydney to play in a rugby league international.
His side, Poland, won 56-0. But he lost $4400 in rental-car accident excess, despite believing he was fully protected.
This is a salutary tale for the millions of people who spend a collective $885 million a year hiring vehicles in Australia, according to Ibisworld.
On January 24 the Gold Coast chippie, whose parents were born in Poland, paid to hire a car from Redspot from February 2-6. He did so via Rentalcars.com, which arranges seven million hires around the world annually.
Mr Usher forked out extra for a product he thought would ensure he didn't have to pay an excess if he was in an accident, which he subsequently was. So he was alarmed to discover a $4400 excess was payable when he returned the slightly damaged vehicle to Redspot.
The Rentalcars.com product had not reduced his excess to zero. It merely offered a refund on the excess.
Redspot told Mr Usher if he didn't pay, his credit history could be affected and that a debt collector would become involved. So he did, and has been paying interest for more than two-and-a-half months.
Earlier this month Redspot set about chasing the other driver, Sydney man Anthony Williams. It sought $1630 for the repair, $327 for loss of use, plus a $220 administration fee. Total: $2184. Its letter threatened legal action. It was at this point that Public Defender became involved.
I began by contacting Redspot CEO Dan Mekler. He rang Mr Usher and promised to refund the difference between the excess charge and the repair cost, as well as $150 for accrued interest. Prior to this Redspot hadn't managed to return any calls or emails.
Sydney man Anthony Williams was pursued for damages after a minor car accident with a rental.
I then contacted Rentalcars.com's CEO Ian Brown in the UK. He said the case was "unusual" and that the other driver's insurer had been "unreasonably slow".
"Therefore our team haven't been able to close the case and issue the refund," Mr Brown said. "Given that situation and the unacceptable delay, we're just going to refund the balance of the excess."
With Mr Usher fully refunded and the repair costs covered, I asked Mr Mekler to have Redspot cease its pursuit of the other driver, Mr Williams. He said he would if Rentalcars.com did too. I then obtained that commitment from Rentalcars.com.
Mr Mekler said: "Redspot and RentalCars.com will both be closing their files." Mr Usher said: "Thank you very much for all your work."
Mr Williams' daughter Kylie said: "That's a lot of stress off my dad."
For consumers renting a car, Choice recommends buying travel insurance or excess reduction insurance from someone other than the hire car company.
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