Monday, 27 April 2015

Britons heading to Europe face nightmare of being unable to pick up hire car upon arrival

Britons heading to Europe on holiday are facing the nightmare of arriving at their destination and not being able to hire a car, thanks to a controversial driving licence shake-up.

On June 8 The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is scrapping the paper counterpart that accompanies all UK plastic photocard licences. 

The counterpart shows all the Information about penalty points for traffic violations such as speeding.

From June 8, holidaymakers heading abroad will have to log on to the DVLA website the day before and put in their driving licence number to obtain a special code to give to their car hire company when they arrive at the desk.

But fears are growing that the new rules will mean people could be turned away because many car hire firms abroad will still insist on examining the paper document to check for endorsements or bans.

Also anyone hiring a car in the second week of their trip faces having to find an internet cafe or pay expensive roaming charges as the passcode to access the infprmation is valid for only 72 hours

Mark Bower, of the car hire insurance website MoneyMaxim, said holidaymakers could endure major problems at car hire desks across Europe. He added: ‘Most people are simply unaware that these changes are on the way – and it is not just renters.

‘I spoke to one big car hire firm in Portugal this week and they knew nothing of the changes. Six weeks away from implementation, the whole thing is very muddled.

‘It is another thing you have to remember to do just before departure. Or you can do it at the desk with your smartphone if you can remember the website address, don’t mind the data roaming charges, can remember your national insurance number and are impervious to the long queue developing behind you.’

Mr Bower also said unscrupulous firms might use the issue as ‘another excuse’ to persuade people to pay for extra insurance.

Motorists will also be able to download their driving history as a printable PDF file, although it is unclear whether all car hire firms will accept that, or how drivers without access to a computer will cope.

The DVLA insists the changes have been widely publicised. But consumers booking car hire for holidays after June have not been warned the new rules are being introduced. The terms and conditions of most car hire firms still explicitly state that paper counterparts must be produced.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, which represents the industry, says UK hirers unaware of the rule change will be treated in the same way as those who currently turn up without both parts of the licence.

The DVLA said the system, called Share Driving Licence, would be ready in time for June 8. A spokesman said: ‘There is up-to-date information on the website and we are working closely with the industry to ensure that their systems and processes are ready for the changes.’

The two-part licence was introduced in 1998 but many drivers found it inconvenient. From June 8, paper counterparts will be invalid and should be destroyed. Motorists with old-style paper driving licences from before 1998 can continue to use them.

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