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SALLY SORTS IT: Car rental firm wanted £654 for a windscreen chip that was already there

Claim: A couple were charged £900 for a chip in the windscreen of their rental car which they had already reported as a pre-existing fault

I recently received a claim for $800 (£654) from Alamo car rental companies for the cost of replacing the windscreen on a car we rented last summer.

We had reported a small chip on the glass before departing from Melbourne Airport in Florida and this was accepted as a pre-existing defect.

There were no incidents during the ten days of vacation. I appealed but got two emails saying we still owe money.

We don’t have those funds. I am unable to sleep with worry. I am a paramedic and I have to be vigilant at work. Please can you help?

PA, Rotherham, South Yorks.

Claim: A couple were charged £900 for a chip in the windscreen of their rental car which they had already reported as a pre-existing fault

Claim: A couple were charged £900 for a chip in the windscreen of their rental car which they had already reported as a pre-existing fault

Sally Hamilton replies: I get the jitters about renting a car on vacation because you never know exactly what extra charges you’ll be persuaded to pay as you sit at the desk desperate to go on a trip.

I also find it a great relief to return the engine at the end of the period with the body undamaged – although I always take pictures to prove it, just in case something comes back to bite.

Your story has caused heart palpitations because it seems customers can’t always fully relax, even more than six months after returning a car to the depot.

You gave me more details about your experience. When you arrived at the rental office at the start of your trip, you were told that the only vehicle large enough for your family of six had a slight chip in the windshield.

You were a little worried, but you checked in with an Alamo staff member.

There was a small nick in the glass, but you agreed to take it anyway because your children, one of whom has special needs, were tired after the long flight.

The employee told you that he would record the damage, put it on the invoice and suggested that you take pictures of the windshield, just in case, which you did.

Returning the vehicle ten days later, all in one piece and refueled, it was inspected and you received an email confirming that you owed $0.

So I can imagine how anxious you felt when several months later, on February 13, a letter arrived stating that “our review indicates that you are responsible for damage to our vehicle”.

You made an immediate appeal by sending copies of your dated photos. He didn’t cut the ice with the decision makers. Unfortunately, you rejected the email at the time confirming that you owed nothing.

You requested a copy from Alamo, but Alamo had not responded to your request by the time you contacted me several days later.

I decided to rev up my consumer champion engine and have Alamo investigate this obvious error. He agreed to reopen your file.

About ten days passed before a response arrived, but this one finally ended your sleepless nights – that she wouldn’t sue you for the bill. Alright.

An Alamo spokesperson said: “Following an investigation, we believe there was a clerical error and have now waived the cost of the claim. We accept that our communication with the customer in this case could have been better and we apologize for any inconvenience caused.’

Ernesto Suarez, founder of excess cover company, says it’s highly unusual for a customer to be slapped with a charge so long after a rental.

Although it is common for a hire company to set aside money on a hirer’s credit card to cover any excess due in the event of a claim, accident or theft, this amount (usually £1,000 to £2,000) is usually released after a maximum of 30 days, as in your case.

Suarez says your case highlights the importance of preserving photographic evidence in the event of a dispute.

Another issue to watch out for is the excess waiver insurance sold by rental companies, which is often imposed on customers upon arrival at the rental office.

It can be more expensive than stand-alone policies and often excludes windshield (and tire) damage coverage.

Standalone insurance sold by companies such as iCarhireinsurance is usually less expensive and includes this coverage.

To the point

My energy supplier Bristol Energy went bankrupt in January 2022 and I transferred to British Gas.

I moved at the same time so I no longer needed the account, but it had an outstanding credit of £28.20. I tried for a year to chase that money.

RB, by e-mail.

A British Gas spokesperson said: ‘The customer’s contact details were provided to us in error by their former supplier.

However, we should have solved this problem earlier. You have received the current credit.


I ordered two bags from Harvey Nichols but returned one when I picked up the order. I then decided to return the other by post via La Poste.

I have since lost proof of receipt of postage, which Harvey Nichols insists I need if it is to reimburse me.

JH, by e-mail.

Harvey Nichols says customers should keep their proof of postage if they want a refund, but waived this in your case as a goodwill gesture.


I bought a £100 Morrisons gift card in October 2021. I tried to spend it several times but the staff refused me.

When I tried to use it again later I was told it expired after 12 months, although it clearly states on the website that it expires after 24 months.

JR, by e-mail.

A Morrisons spokesperson said: ‘We are continuing to liaise with the customer to resolve the query.

We apologize that the customer service she received did not meet our usual high standards.

£900 charge from BT for my disabled discount

My husband and I have a package from BT which includes broadband, TV, entertainment and landline and costs around £85 per month.

I recently found out that clients on disability benefits get a discounted rate. I am disabled and receive Disability Living Allowance so I contacted BT.

The problem is that our account is in my husband’s name and I was told it would have to be changed to my name to qualify, but it would cost £900.

I was stunned and considered quitting BT. I was also told it would cost £900 to end the contract early. It’s mean and petty and I feel like we’re being held hostage.

MF, Sleaford, Lincs.

Sally Hamilton responds: Many broadband companies have offers called social tariffs, which are designed to help people with certain benefits. They have low monthly fees (currently between £10 and £20 per month) and offer flexible terms.

Eligibility for these offers varies by provider, but all accept customers on Universal Credit.

Regardless of the benefit involved, the person receiving it should generally be the primary name of a contract. If a provider does not offer a social rate, then it is possible to switch to one that does – some companies allow this without an exit penalty. The exit penalty waiver wasn’t going to apply to you, it seems, because the contract wasn’t in your name.

Perversely, in order to arrange it so you can get the disability discount (worth more than half of your £85 monthly bill) you’ll have to pay a fee of £900. Like you, I felt this penalty was on the nasty side and asked BT to reconsider.

The company has reviewed your request. Shortly after, he confirmed that the account had to be in the correct name to allow him to perform the relevant eligibility checks.

She also explained that the information about the early termination fee for your fixed-term contract had been correctly communicated to you.

However, I am happy to say that BT has agreed to waive this charge as a goodwill gesture.

Instead of £85 a month, you now pay £36, which includes £20 for Fiber Home Essentials and a separate £16 charge for BT TV, which you wanted to keep.

A BT spokesperson said: ‘We are very sorry that we did not make it easy for the couple when they reached out to us. We spoke to them and arranged to have the account put in the woman’s name at no charge.

Readers wishing to find out more about social tariffs can visit the telecommunications regulator Ofcom’s website at or telephone 0300 123 3333.

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email – include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organization giving him permission to speak to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for the answers given.

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