THOUSANDS of tourists are being ripped off by Spanish car-hire firms each year.
Hidden charges are catching more than three-quarters of holiday-makers unaware, according to a study by British consumer watchdog Which?
Even well-known international companies have been accused of trying to beat the recession by exploiting their customers.
Which? found evidence of one scam – the ‘full-empty’ fuel policy – being used widely throughout Spain and in many other parts of Europe.
This scam sees holidaymakers forced to pay for a full tank of petrol – usually at a price way beyond that of local garages – but not refunded for unused fuel on return.
This is despite the fact many tourists have little opportunity to use a full tank of petrol during their holiday – especially those visiting small Spanish islands such as Menorca or Mallorca.
A tourist hiring a Fiat 500, for example, would have to drive the 80-mile round trip from Palma Airport to the far side of Mallorca nearly seven times to use all the fuel they were forced to buy.
The Olive Press receives regular complaints about car-hire companies, and has conducted investigations into several, including Brian’s Rent-a-Car, One Way van hire, and Niza.
Deposits were finally returned to Niza car hire customers in March after an exclusive Olive Press investigation revealed that hundreds had waited for months to get their money back.