On 8 August, the European Commission made public a letter sent to the CEOs of six international car rental companies, asking them to end practices preventing consumers from accessing best available prices on the basis of their country of residence (IP/14/917).
Three car rental companies were considered not to have responded sufficiently to the concerns raised by the Commission (EUROPCAR, HERTZ and AVIS). Following the publication of the press release, these three car rental companies engaged in constructive dialogue with the Commission. They reaffirmed their commitment to respect the principle of non-discrimination in the EU Single Market and provided detailed explanations for their pricing policies. They committed to the following:
they will not use automatic rerouting following the identification of the consumer’s IP address;
consumers will not be prevented from completing their booking online on any national website of the car rental companies within the EU. They can freely shop around for the best price;
the car rental companies will differentiate prices by a consumer’s country of residence only where the difference can be justified by objective reasons.
Michel Barnier, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Internal Market and Services, said “I welcome a clear improvement in the situation for European consumers wishing to rent cars in the EU.”
The Commission will continue discussions regarding objective reasons for differences in offers and is reflecting further on how to improve price comparison and information for consumers. It will continue monitoring the respect of the non-discrimination obligation, including where companies operate with franchisees. This dialogue with car rental companies on non-discrimination is just a first step: it will be followed by further discussions on a wider range of issues in February 2015.
After the press release of 8 August 2014, EUROPCAR, HERTZ and AVIS engaged in detailed and constructive discussions with the European Commission. They stressed their commitment to be fully compliant with the law. The Commission accepted that source market pricing could be justified by local market situations (seasonality, different competition conditions in different countries), provided that consumers were not prevented from making use of the best available rate. Consumers should have the right to start and finish car rental bookings on any national website of the companies within the EU.
The EU Single Market offers consumers and businesses access to a broad range of services and opportunities. Businesses are able to sell to a wider group of customers, and consumers can access services that might not necessarily be available, or are more expensive in the country they live in. This is where EU rules play a vital role. The Services Directive in particular prohibits companies from using unjustified discrimination in access to a service on the basis of nationality or place of residence of the consumer. In August 2014, the Commission published practical guidance for consumers purchasing services or goods online.