Rental car users pay 64% more on M50


DRIVERS WHO rent cars and use the M50 toll are being charged in some cases up to 64 per cent more per journey by rental firms than standard users.

Operators of rental car firms are claiming that they need to charge an administration fee per journey to recoup the costs of processing and paying the charge.

An Irish Times reader Michael Smyth, who resides in the UK, complained after being charged an extra €1.93 per journey on top of the regular €3 toll after renting a car from Europcar while on a visit home.

According to Gerry McDermott, commercial manager of Europcar car rentals: “in all cases where we process charges on behalf of a third party, we charge an administration fee to cover our own costs of paying the charge. This is no different for the M50 tolls.

“The vast majority of our customers are from overseas and this process simplifies it for the customer who does not have to find a place to pay the toll directly or make payment online within the deadline provided, as well as avoiding any penalties for late payment.”

In response to the suggestion that these fees were quite high, McDermott said that these were associated with the manpower charges, payment processing charges and VAT, as well as associating the toll charges with the actual customer rentals. “We have no option but to pass on the charges that we incur as a result of a third party transaction.” Europcar is part of the ICR Motor Group of companies, which also operates Alamo and National Car Rental. The group is currently in examinership.

Paul Redmond from the Car Rental Council of Ireland said: “All the car rental companies have accounts with BetEire Flow. Cars are registered on and off the fleet every day. Some companies tried a system of allowing customers to pay their own tolls, but the level of default was such that they were being charged for all unpaid tolls by BetEire Flow . . . The fee (now) is designed to cover the costs associated with capturing the toll data from the BetEire flow system.”

However, not all rental firms operate such a system. A spokesperson for Avis car rental said it asked customers to pay their own tolls. “We make it clear to customers when they rent a car that they are responsible for paying their own tolls on the M50 and we only charge an administration fee on tolls when there have been fines for late fees incurred.”

A spokesperson for Hertz Ireland, which doesn’t apply any addition charges for using the M50 toll said: “We only ask motorists to pay for the tolls that they use. We don’t have any plans to introduce any additional charges in the immediate future.”

A spokesperson for BetEire Flow, which operates the barrier-free tolling system said, they charge all customers the same and that the three payment options are clearly set out and fairly applied to all.

Fine Gael’s Seanad transport spokesman Paschal Donohoe called for an end to car rental firms charging additional costs to tourists using the M50. “We should not be charging tourists for the additional cost of using toll roads,” he said. “They are already paying enough. If we start charging tourists for the administrative costs of visiting Ireland where will this end?”

The issue arises in a week when the Irish tourism industry warned of a potential shortage of rental cars this year and called for the Government to reinstate a VRT tax relief scheme for rental firms and also allow rental cars to benefit from the scrappage deal when they return to the market.