AJMAN // Car rental firms say they are being left out of pocket when customers refuse to pay charges on returning hired vehicles.
Ajman Police receive up to five reports a day from firms about unpaid bills because customers, who often only had to hand over a passport copy and leave a small deposit, would not – or in some cases said they could not – pay the balance, said Maj Raeed Obaid El Zaaby, Ajman city centre police station director.
“The problem lies in that the company is pleased with anything like a copy of passport or identity card and it may be fake,” he said. “They don’t make sure if the client has a driving licence and they don’t take a deposit to protect their rights.”
Maj El Zaaby said that some customers do not understand the contract terms.
“We call the customer and ask them to pay the money if they can. If not, we arrest them and send them to the civil prosecutor,” he said.
“Sometimes we try to give them a period of grace to get money and solve the case before sending it to prosecution but, during this period, we keep their passport until they pay.”
Rental firm chiefs said they do not take large deposits or guarantees, or even credit card information, as often their customers simply do not have the means. As a result they risk being hit financially if the car is returned damaged or has accrued traffic fines.
Sami Ali, who runs a car hire firm in Ajman, said he has always had this problem.
“The customer pays 50 per cent of the rent amount of the rental car, and when they return it they say that they don’t have money to pay the rest. In this case, I give them time to get money. If they don’t I open a report at the police station.
“Sometimes, when the police call them, they pay, other times they don’t so then their case will be transferred to the public prosecution.”
However, the process of hiring a lawyer to pursue the case is often so costly and drawn out that Mr Ali opts instead to simply drop the case altogether.
When renting a car, the Emirati asks for a copy of the customer’s passport and driving licence. He said he rarely asks for a credit card or the full amount because his customers cannot afford it, and he is worried they will take their business elsewhere if he did.
“The financial status of my customers doesn’t allow them to pay the full amount at one time because they don’t have the cash. In addition, if we ask them for that they will go to another company,” Mr Ali said. “We also can’t ask for a guarantee to put on their credit card because most of them don’t have one.”
From his experience, he says he can tell which customers will or will not cause trouble. But when he encounters a problem customer, he sends their details to other car rental companies, advising staff not to deal with them.
Liban Saeed, a Canadian manager at a car rental company in the emirate, said some customers would happily put down a deposit and pay the rest after returning the car. However, others choose to give up their passports as a guarantee and promise to pay the balance later.
“Some pay the charges after renting the car, and others don’t. In this case, we give them between a week and three weeks to get the money. If they don’t, we open a case against them to get our money.”