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Sixt Car Rental - arrogance beyond belief

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Hello All,

 

I'm posting this as a form of warning or advice, but in turn hope to glean some extra information based on CAGers' own experiences of either this abysmal company, or other car hire company 'bashing head against the wall' experiences. Apologies in advance for the essay.

 

Sixt, it seems, will live and die by their "Terms and Conditions" contract, which, not unlike many other global and arrogant companies, seek to impose very harsh terms on their consumer; terms which would, in a court of Law, fall foul of the Unfair Contract Terms Act (UCTA), or the EU Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPUTR).

 

Having looked around extensively online for a car rental deal for a holiday in Holland and Germany this summer, I finally decided on a deal from Sixt Rental. They offered the car class I wanted, and the best cashback rate through Quidco. So, doing what I always do after researching on my MacBook, I used a Windows session on the same machine and browsed to their site via Quidco, in order to guarantee that the tracking worked and my cashback registered. So far it has tracked but not been paid, but that is not the reason for my issue.

 

The car was booked in mid-June, for a rental starting in early-September, this giving Sixt nearly three months to 'prepare' my rental car for my arrival.

 

Now, when booking the car online at sixt.com, Sixt has a section on the form that specifically asks where you intend to drive it. So, I answered "Netherlands and Germany", because I was staying with friends near Utrecht, then moving on to Bremen, then Berlin, then Cologne, and back near Utrecht before coming home.

 

I arrived at the desk in Schiphol and (fully expecting to be shafted) I actually got the car I booked, plus some extra loading included (sat nav and bluetooth) so I was very pleased. The assistant did try the obligatory up-sell of a higher class of vehicle, but at £10 a day for 17 days hire, and having already spent around £650 hiring the car it was too much for my budget, so I politely declined. The only issue to arise was the fact I didn't have the card with me that I had used to pay for the car some three months prior, which the assistant was most annoyed with. The truth is, I had lost/misplaced it (not reported at that point in time), but she said she could apply the 'damage deposit' to it still, as an unattended sale.

 

Here's the important bit. Looking at Sixt.com's own web site detailing "driving in Germany" it states that many major cities in Germany now require an emissions sticker to be displayed, but they reassure their customer by providing the warranty: "... when you rent a car with Sixt this is no concern as our vehicles are kept up-to-date and carry the necessary sticker."

 

Off I went to collect the car, and walking through the parking lot I could see all kinds of cars in the Sixt area, with registrations from all over Europe. My car was there, bearing a Dutch registration, immaculate and nearly brand new. I was still pleased.

 

In all honesty, although I now recall reading about the emissions sticker whilst doing my car rental research, like all of the other information I'd absorbed from Sixt and other sites, the issue of the "Grüne Plakette" was completely forgotten as three months had passed, but in my mind the reassurance that everything would be ok with the car, because somewhere on their site, Sixt had assured the world in general that was the case.

 

I got to Berlin about five days into my holiday (13th September) and parked on the roadside in the hotel's allotted on-street parking bay, and within an hour I noticed the car had a piece of paper jammed under the wiper blade. The last thing I expected was any kind of fine, as I'd displayed the permit the hotel had given me.

 

My German friends who were with us in Berlin read the notice and were convinced there was some sort of error. The car had been fined €80 for not displaying the required emissions sticker. There was no option to pay it there and then, but reference to the fact the authorities would write to the registered keeper to demand payment.

 

My friends have the green sticker on their car, as every German gets one (they cost €6, are valid for the life of the car, and are issued on production of the car's registration documents, or can be obtained online for €15 - 14 day wait - again by submitting the car's registration documents). My friends couldn't believe that if the car wasn't somehow exempt, that Sixt would not have included the sticker at the time they bought it, considering the minimal cost, and that their cars would inevitably be used all over Europe. I was of course in agreement, and then the memory of the reassurance on their web site came back to me.

 

Immediately I wrote to Sixt's customer services telling them what had happened, and that there must have been some sort of administrative error as the car wasn't showing the sticker their web site stated it would, nor was it included in the car (after making a thorough search of the car, all it had been supplied with in terms of 'legal' stuff was a parking timer disk and a European Traffic Accident Report Form).

 

Sixt didn't respond for 4 days, by which time the car had been given a second fine, but in the ensuing conversation, the person replying appeared to be apologising that I should have been reminded of the need for the sticker by the person who gave me the keys, and then stated that because it was a Dutch car, it didn't need one. I reminded them that they asked me specifically where I was taking the car, and as I'd said Germany, I'd expect the car to be adequately licenced for the purpose. Their response was to send me the link to the TÜV site to apply for the sticker (fat lot of use that was as I didn't have the registration documents anyway) and said it's the 'driver's responsibility'. I felt particularly miffed that I'd been badly let down, given the claims on their web site. In a later exchange of emails, Sixt 'customer services' even tried to claim that the car's registration documents are supplied 'for this purpose' - an incredible lie!

 

Knowing how car hire firms love to whack fines and extra charges onto the card you used for the 'security deposit', plus their opportunistic additional fee for the pleasure, I formally reported my card lost. This worked, because Sixt were unable to whallop my card for their fees as I predicted they would try.

 

I received two emailed invoices from Sixt 16 days after the fines were issued to the car, one for each fine notification, which appear to have been processed on the same day. They have 'grassed me up' to the German authorities (who incidentally still haven't contacted me almost three weeks later) in which they say that they are charging me €24 for each of my "parking violations".

 

Naturally, I have disputed that I am at fault at all, on the basis that:

 

- I hired the car from their web site, where it claimed "... when you rent a car with Sixt this is no concern as our vehicles are kept up-to-date and carry the necessary sticker."

 

- I could not have obtained a sticker without the registration document, which to my knowledge is never supplied with a rental car. In any case, it was disproportional to expect me to lose half a day of my holiday to obtain a sticker valid for the life of the car, when I was only hiring it for 17 days.

 

- I informed them on their web site where they specifically asked me where I intended to drive the car and were told "Germany", and the assumption is that they would supply a car fit for that purpose (or tell me otherwise).

 

Of course, they are now throwing in the extra 'hidden text' that 'of course' the reference to the stickers is ONLY for cars hired for pickup in Berlin (what?!) and that I hired my car in Holland, so got a Dutch car (this is despite there clearly being German cars available for re-hire at the airport as there were dozens there, at or above the class I'd hired).

 

However, their golden 'get out' is that they are saying my claim against them is irrelevant because I've agreed to their Terms and Conditions, they think it's cast-iron that I have agreed to pay ALL fines, HOWEVER they are incurred. This presumably extends to the case that they may have not insured or taxed a vehicle correctly, or failed on some other construction and use matter. They think (or are arrogating) their T&Cs transcend common law.

 

I've pointed out to them that under contract law they are liable for any of my losses arising from a breach of theirs, irrespective of what their T&Cs say, and that I am firmly of the opinion that they are in breach, given the circumstances, but they arrogantly and swiftly always revert the onus to pay back on me, as "it's in the Terms and Conditions".

 

So, the matter is still 'pending', and I will update this thread with developments and any outcome. If I am sent demands by the German authorities, I will have little choice but to pay, although I WILL make a claim against Sixt to recover them, and similarly as I've told Sixt that the only way they will ever get a penny off me is if I am ordered to by a court, then I will be mounting a defence against any such claim.

 

If anyone has any experience of making a claim under the European Small Claims Procedure (ESCP) then I'd love to hear from you.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read my novel!

 

GRMC

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Little choice but to pay? have a read up. If theyre unfair, you should be able to contest them. just like you can over here. Do you have all this in writing or recorded calls? because if you head to court, you will need it


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I have a friend in Germany looking into the process, but it appears the legislation for these emissions is strict liability and it is the driver and not the registered keeper who is liable for the charge. My claim against Sixt would be one of a tort as my contract with them was to supply me a car fit for purpose to drive in Germany, which they didn’t.

 

It may transpire that the two fines can be consolidated into one, as the sightings relate to a single incident of parking on-street without the sticker visible, unless the fines are issued one per 24 hour period. However, it would still be my responsibility to pay them, then claim the cost back from Sixt.

 

I seriously doubt there will be any avenue to contest the fines - the car was sighted in a low emissions zone without the prescribed sticker visible - it doesn’t get much simpler than that.

 

I’m not sure what you mean by having all this in writing or recorded calls? Everything in connection with the hire is by email (including the countries needed to drive in) and the subsequent conversations are all by email. I have also taken copies of the web site where Sixt make warranties as to their cars coming with the stickers.

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