The Competition and Market Authority (CMA) have laid out key changes to be implemented to the way comparison websites display prices for renting a car online. After roundtable discussions in the early part of 2016, a deadline of early 2017 has been set and enforcement action could be taken if the recommendations have not been taken on board.

The main areas of focus are what the CMA refer to as the ‘headline price’ (revealed at the start of the booking) and ‘final drive away price’ (final price including all mandatory and optional charges), asking for greater clarity relating to seven specific aspects of car rental: Young Drivers Surcharge, One Way Fees, Fuel Charges, Excesses, Pre-authorisation or deposits, Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) exclusions and Snow Chains & Optional extras. The CMA require ‘the relevant information to be clearly and prominently presented to consumers’.

They suggest that ‘all unavoidable and foreseeable charges (mandatory charges) paid by all consumers should be included in the headline price’, alongside any ‘charges that are mandatory for a certain group of consumers (mainly age-related surcharges and one-way fees)’. They add that the ‘final drive away price provided to consumers at the end of the booking process should include all mandatory charges as well as the charges for any additional optional products’.

For anyone who has had the experience of booking a rental car online and seen the cost increase significantly once additional information has been provided, or had a nasty surprise at the rental desk, this is great news. Too often charges are held back from consumers until point of purchase or are hidden within the website, giving the broker or rental company a get-out clause. These new CMA directives look to end all of this.

The brokers themselves raised initial concerns as to how displaying all this additional information may affect the buying process, worried that it could ‘clutter’ up the online booking experience. The CMA have suggested a ‘single Key Terms document’ or a set of ‘Rental Conditions’ be created (if not in place already) that contain all the relevant information with the provision being that it follows the ‘one-click away’ principle; it can all be accessed in a new browser or tab with a single click.

In summary, this move is all about providing information in a clear and prominent way. Having it tucked away in the terms and conditions which most people gloss over at best will no longer suffice. Until the deadline next year, the problem unfortunately still exists, as documented in recent articles in Which? and the Sunday Times. But at least things are moving forward.

This empowering of the consumer is something we applaud at and we only hope that in the future these same rules will be enforced upon the rental companies themselves.

Disclaimer: All prices contained in this article were correct on the original date of publication. Prices may change over time, so for current prices, please get a quote.