Zipcar's van cancellation cost me £512

I needed a vehicle for a house move, but there was nothing there when I went to collect it, and I had to take a taxi to the nearest hire firm

But where is the Zipcar van? Miles away when it’s needed.
But where is the Zipcar van? Miles away when it’s needed. Photograph: WG Murray/Alamy
But where is the Zipcar van? Miles away when it’s needed. Photograph: WG Murray/Alamy
Anna Tims

Last modified on Thu 12 Nov 2020 04.02 EST

I hired a van from Zipcar when I moved house three weeks ago. It wasn’t there when I arrived to collect it and the helpline told me it was miles away in Croydon. I was advised to spend an hour travelling there by train to track it down, which I couldn’t do as I was in the middle of a house move. Then I was told the van would be towed to me and I would receive a call back with an estimated arrival time.

No one called back. When I managed to get through, I was told that this wasn’t possible. Shortly afterwards, I received an email saying that my booking had been cancelled and that I would not be getting my £64 rental fee back. I had to take a taxi to the nearest car hire company and hire another van. Because it was a bank holiday weekend I was obliged to pay £512 for two extra days that I did not need.
CM, London

Eighteen days after you raised a complaint, Zipcar did refund the £64 and add the same sum as a credit note for the unlikely event you’d risk using them again, but you are still out of pocket by more than £400. It told me that an “issue” from a prior booking meant the vehicle was no longer available, and there were no alternatives nearby. It blamed the 18-day delay in responding to your complaint on a “high level of demand” and decided to add £100 to your compensation.

It refused, however, to cover your expenses or convert the £64 goodwill into cash because, it says, its “standard policy” is credit notes. Looking at reviews on Trustpilot, its overall rating is “poor” due to a catalogue of cases where a booked vehicle has been unavailable, or customer service substandard. The cheap hire rates are undoubtedly alluring, but bear in mind if you pay a low price for something this may be reflected in the quality of the service.

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