Is there an ombudsman for car hire problems in France?
We had an issue with a car hire firm in the UK when we were charged costly insurance which we had not requested. We emailed an ombudsman for the UK car hire industry and they helped. Is there equivalent help in France? H.B.
Since 2016, things have much improved in France with regard to ombudsman services for consumers, known in French as la médiation de la consommation.
Any consumer with a complaint against a business has the right to go to a relevant médiateur free of charge to obtain help in finding a resolution.
When you sign a contract for car hire, the relevant médiateur for this industry should be mentioned in the small print or otherwise made available to you, for example on the firm’s website.
The one for car hire is the Médiateur du Conseil national des professions de l’automobile (mediateur-cnpa.fr).
In the first instance, however, you should address your complaint to the customer services section of the company in question to see if it can be resolved without involving a third party.
Other options would be to seek help from an ordinary consumer association (see here for a list: tinyurl.com/y54cjkvq but they usually require you to pay a membership fee to join) or, if you think the company has committed a professional fault, you could report it to the DGCCRF, a departmental trading standards body: economie.gouv.fr/contact/contacter-la-dgccrf.
Finally, as car hire often involves visitors to France rather than residents, the European Consumer Centre (ukecc.net for the British branch) is also a possible source of help.
This provides help to consumers from the country where the branch applied to is based who have a grievance against a firm in another EU country. This would not be applicable for Britons in the UK after Brexit and any transition period.
Send your queries about life in France by email to firstname.lastname@example.org