Motorists from the UK hiring a car when they go abroad are being warned to take precautions when returning the vehicle to the rental company. The UK European Consumer Centre has reported a dramatic increase in the complaints it is receiving from travellers who believe they have been treated unfairly. Complaints include being charged for fuel, even though the car was returned with a full tank.

Other complaints range from being billed for damage to the car which never occurred to being charged for a booking made online for a vehicle which is not available on arrival. Manager of the UKECC, Jed Mayatt, said he was surprised by the rising number of complaints. By the end of the year the number of disputes is expected to go up by around 400 per cent based on current trends.

Mr Mayatt admitted that many customers had a good experience when hiring a vehicle abroad, but warned those visiting other EU countries to be vigilant when signing contracts and taking precautions when they returned their vehicles to the car hire company.

A common problem when returning vehicles is there is no one at the rental office to sign-off the fact a car has been returned in good condition. Mr Mayatt suggested that if this is the case, a customer should make a photographic record that everything is as it should be in case a dispute does arise.

Around 100 complaints were received by the UKECC in the first five months of 2010, a significant increase on the same period for the year before.